A Seattle call center manager discovers life and love in India when he’s “Outsourced.” Not to be confused with Columbia’s announced Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson starrer of the same title due in 2008, this unaffected charmer treats a hot-button contempo issue with old-fashioned grace and benevolent wit, rendering it a sure-fire word-of-mouth crowd-pleaser at fests, in first-run and on ancillary.
Thirty-two-year-old Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) manages the order filling call center of Western Novelty: “We sell kitsch to rednecks,” he explains, with typical efficiency. Abruptly told by boss Dave (Matt Smith) that his entire department is being outsourced to India, the Seattlite finds himself persuaded to travel there and train his replacement.
Todd’s the kind of guy who dons a suit and tie for an international flight, so the heat and chaos of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) proves somewhat of a shock. Making his way by crowded train to the village of Gharapuri, he’s met by Purohit N. Virajnarianan (Asif Basra), a local eager beaver who plans to parlay the job he’s swiping from Todd into a secure arranged marriage but is so unfamiliar with English slang he’s no idea what the word “schmuck” means.
In a half-built concrete bunker, wrangling a staff alternately puzzled and appalled by such product items as Burger Brander and plastic Cheeseheads, Todd labors to teach his charges the American way of life and bring the all-important MPI–“minutes per incident”–of each phone order to the six decreed by the home office (it stands at over twice that when he arrives).
Through the business skill, sincere friendship and eventual love of employee Asha (Ayesha Dharker), Todd learns to embrace his new surroundings and marshal the available forces to get the job done.
Inspired by helmer John Jeffcoat’s semester abroad in Southern Asia, knowing script was co-written with George Wing, whose other romantic comedies include “50 First Dates” and, for MGM, a new version of Billy Wilder’s “Avanti!” Together, they’re smart enough to eschew character quirkiness in favor of location flavor, letting the environment set the pace and dictate the relationship.
A tremendously genial screen presence who manages to portray both puzzlement and proficiency, New York stage vet Hamilton is the perfect aud surrogate, a stranger in a strange land who surprises himself with his own adaptability. The troubled protagonist of “The Terrorist” and Queen Jamillia in “Star Wars: Episode II–Attack of the Clones,” Dharker now proves herself equally adept at light romantic comedy as the capable, passionate Asha. The chemistry between the two is natural and unforced. Vet Larry Pine is fine in a single scene as an American offering sage advice to the frustrated Todd.
Tech contributions are streamlined, with visual package falling just short of TV gloss and production design presenting a rumpled yet appealing atmosphere. Though shot on 35mm, Toronto screening caught was projected digital vid.