Road to Nowhere
A long and miserable journey
BY JASON BLAIR
OUTSOURCED: Directed by John Jeffcoat. Written by George Wing and John Jeffcoat. Cinematography, Teodoro Maniaci. Music, BC Smith. Starring Josh Hamilton, Ayesha Dharker, Asif Basra, Matt Smith and Larry Pine. Shadowcatcher Entertainment, 2007. PG-13. 103 minutes.
|Josh Hamilton as Todd Anderson in Outsourced|
I’ve never been to India, but I’m certain it’s far less laughable than in Outsourced, which presents a sort of worst-case scenario for junior executive Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton). Forced to leave comfy Seattle when his company offshores his department, Todd arrives in Bombay a massively stereotyped fish-out-of-water. It’s clearly a personal apocalypse for Todd, so hot, dirty and noisy is the city. He seems allergic to color or, at the very least, afraid of it. In fact, Outsourced depicts Anderson as the Whitest Man Alive — he doesn’t like to be touched, for example, nor does he seem overly coordinated or relaxed — and with his bland, Chad Lowe-like looks, he is perhaps the only Caucasian male alive too white for a Volkswagen ad. But Todd’s characterization is only one of the ways this childish film tries to charm you by using humiliation, cliché and insult.
Todd’s mission, which he accepts because his life is empty, is to prepare an Indian staff to handle the calls once handled by Americans. Never mind that the Indians speak better English than Todd: He’s been retained to train them to speak American, which is to say, a lazy and unexpressive form of English that glosses consonants while reducing words to childish sounds. “Internet” becomes “Innernet,” and so on. Soon enough, Todd’s bowels are chronically cramping, leading to all kinds of painful incidents (for us, but presumably for Todd as well). While Todd breaks Indian custom on an hourly basis, you quickly realize the filmmakers of Outsourced had only one point to make: Todd must learn the ways of India or die, be it by flatulence, the errant cab or simple humiliation. And since in Outsourced, nuance is a foreign language, we have Asha (Ayesha Dharker) to explain things for us. “You need to learn about India,” she tells Todd. That’s like saying water is wet.
You see, Todd is America, and it’s time America learned a lesson.
There is one truly funny moment in Outsourced, when call center employees quote lines from Hollywood films such as Taxi Driver and Casablanca. But even this feels broad and mildly exploitative. While the film sweetens up as Todd softens toward India, Outsourced remains a piece of propagandist puffery. The film looks as it should and sounds as it should — the music is jumpy and propulsive — but it’s insincere and cowardly in almost every way. Outsourced is so dull, so hastily conjured, that screenwriter George Wing’s other opus, 50 First Dates, seems magnificent by comparison. Not even the film’s closing moments, which we watch to the superb Eddie Vedder & Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan composition “The Long Road,” from Dead Man Walking, raise anything other than a chill. Then relief as the screen goes black.
Outsourced opens Friday, Sept. 28, at the Bijou.