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Can I help you, Sir?

When Seattle-based customer care specialist Todd Anderson's (Josh Hamilton) smug boss tells him that he is firing his entire department and shipping him off to India to, in effect, train his own replacement, it is done with an almost malicious glee. Little does he know that he has just handed his employee a gift. Whether he is ready for it or not is a different issue.

At first Todd is clearly unhappy with the situation. He's disheveled, has a bad case of the runs and is being forced to stay in a country he knows nothing about. There is, of course, the obligatory sequence of scenes showcasing all the cultural differences Todd has to suffer through. Most films turn these scenes into campy, slightly insulting reductions.
But here they are done just right. And the differences are not all the obvious ones seen over and over again; for example, the habit of eating with one's right hand instead of the left; language miscommunications, and violations of personal space.

But Todd, which everyone pronounces as "toad", perseveres. His arrogant attitude diminishes as he gets more and more exposed to the country and his co-workers at the call center outside of Mumbai where he is doing his training. Some of the best and most endearing scenes occur during these training sessions.

Itís hard to imagine that the vast majority of the cast is "unknown" except for Todd, Asha (Ayesha Dharker), Todd's co-worker with whom he has instant chemistry, and Purohit N. Virajnarianan (Asif Basra), his replacement. The acting is right on and does not seem forced at all; except for a few tentative scenes with Josh Hamilton as Todd at the beginning of the film, which make you truly realize that this is indeed an indie film and not a big-budget Hollywood spectacle.

And thank god for that, as Outsourced is a little gem in the sea of highly marketed Fall films. It is both engaging and funny in a way that sets it apart from other movies this year. However, while the cultural elements are all on par, there is one plot turn which is wholly unbelievable -- that of the relationship between Todd and Asha, which seems neither genuine nor believable. With one fell swoop, the entire film's credibility is called into question. Why did co-writer/director John Jeffcoat tack on their relationship like that? By doing so he introduces a whole slew of sticky issues: exotification, interracial relationships, class dynamics, gender inequities, etc.

Nonetheless, Outsourced accomplishes what it sets out to do by taking a "hot topic" like outsourcing and turning it into a heartfelt cultural comedy. It could very well be the sleeper hit of 2007.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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