July 23, 2008

DVD Review: Outsourced

Many folks live in fear of having their jobs outsourced to countries like China or India. This is a fear that is most felt by those working call centers. When it happens, those affected are left betrayed, scared, and worried about their and their family's future. Losing your job is never a happy prospect, and I only hope that it never happens to me, but who knows what the future holds. Now, with a name like Outsourced, it is pretty easy to tell what a big part of the story is going to be about. It's true, it does concern a severe case of outsourcing, but it is not a serious film dealing with loss and betrayal giving way to fright and ultimately violent revenge, oh no, this is a light hearted film that deals with self-discovery through necessity and being open to moving into the next stage of life. It is actually rather sweet and touching.

Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) works for American Novelty Products, a company that sells "kitcsh to redneck schmucks." Well, one day he is called into the boss's office where he learns that the entire order fulfillment department, which is his charge, is being outsourced to India. While everyone else is being let go, Todd has one last project, which may or may not lead to continued employment, go to India and train his replacement. Talk about a slap in the face, I mean seriously; think about being sent half way across the world to train the man that is taking your job. Doesn't sound all that appealing to me.

Despite his serious reservations, off Todd heads to India. Once there, he is immediately immersed in a culture far removed from his own. To help him get along is Puro (Asif Basra), the man he is training, and Asha (Ayesha Dharker), a lovely young woman who is also the quickest learner of the new staff.

Essentially, Outsourced is a fish out of water story. Todd, whose misunderstood name results in Mr. Toad, is forced to figure out some way of dealing with the vast cultural differences where the ultimate result is his discovery that these people are no different from himself, making their way through life the best way they can.

Over the course of the film, Todd's defenses are broken down. His ultimate goal of getting the call center's times down to six minutes, a seemingly impossible task, seems always just outside of his grasp. The earnestness of Puro offers little encouragement. He finds his inspiration in the inquisitive Asha, whose many questions finally awaken him to his need to learn about India. Understanding where you are is key to helping them understand what they need to do. However, the closer he gets to his business goal, the more his defenses are broken down, allowing him to make peace with his situation, recognize the beauty of this culture and fall in love with Asha, of course.

I have read that the portrayal of Indian culture is quite accurate, I cannot confirm this, but it feels authentic. Even being a light romantic and cultural comedy, it all feels real. I found it very easy to identify with Todd's journey. From his first experience in an open taxi, the mistake of eating street food, interactions with youth on the street, everything rings true. His budding relationship with Asha has real heart, you will find yourself cheering for them, hoping that they end up together.

This is not a hilarious film; very rarely will you find yourself laughing out loud. What you will discover is that you will chuckle, you will have little moments of laughter, but more than that, you will be taken on a journey that is very light and easy to slip into. The movie is very enjoyable and does leave a mark while requiring a lot of effort.

The acting is all quite good. Josh Hamilton hits all the right notes as Todd while he has great chemistry with Ayesha Dharker's Asha. These two really hold down the core of the film. First timer feature director John Jeffcoat, who also co-wrote the script with George Wing, directs their performances to great effect. Jeffcoat does a fine job with the material, which is shot beautifully by Teodoro Maniaci.

Audio/Video. The transfer looks very good, with sharp, bright colors, the cinematography is done great justice to the film. The audio is also quite good, always crisp, clear, and with a great sounding soundtrack.

  • Commentary. The track features director/co-writer John Jeffcoat and he discusses many aspects of the production, he is a personable speaker and this is worth listening to.
  • Behind the Scenes of Outsourced. This takes a quick look at a few aspects of the film including the recording of sound and how it differs from working in Hollywood, also the friendliness of the country countered by the lack of personal space. (12.5 minutes)
  • Storyboarding Outsourced: A discussion with cinematographer Terodoro Maniaci and director John Jeffcoat. This is an audio only interview. We are given some images of the storyboards as they discuss the short ramp up time and how they had to maximize what they were doing with a limited budget. This is interesting to see all of the planning they did to be sure they were ready for the shoot. (8 minutes)
  • Interview with director and co-writer John Jeffcoat. This is moderated by Robert Horton. This is a discussion of how the idea came to John and how it developed into what is seen on the screen. (8 minutes)
  • What were they saying? A translation of Hindi dialogue. All of the scenes featuring the Hindi lanhuage shown together and subtitled, this includes the scene with the cabbies, when he buys the gola, and when the man invites him over the wall. (4 minutes)
  • Music Video: Holi Aayi - BC Smith featuring CJ Virdi. The video features behind the scenes footage while the music plays. I really liked the score for the film, and this song is also quite enjoyable.
  • Outsourced Theatrical Trailer. Self-explanatory.

Bottomline. This is a very light and enjoyable film. It explores the clash of cultures in an interesting way. It may not be a terribly deep film, but it is one that you will not regret watching. The acting and writing are both quite good, and it is just a good looking film.



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