Sep 23, 2011

[Movies] Outsourced (2006)

Outsourced (2006)I've been working in the Philippine call center industry for over 8 years now, so I'd like to think that I have a pretty decent grasp of the culture by now. I'm not claiming to be a total expert just yet, but for the most part I've come to realize a few tendencies when it comes to our agents and all that jazz. Anyone would given enough time immersed in a particular working environment.

When this movie came out, I avoided it outright. I mean come on, how can watching a movie related to my job be entertaining to me? Was it really a good way to spend my free time to watch a movie that would obviously remind me of the work place? It's probably why my interest in The Sims was so limited - the "fun" of simulating real life at the expense of your actual time for other fun activities seemed pretty weird to me.

But then the movie managed to trigger a short-lived TV show last year, and that eventually got me curious. My brother had shared the first half of the season with me and I decided to do my best to finish what had been started.

Ironically, I watched the TV show before this one, and folks pointed out that one didn't make sense without the other. So I got around to watching this to see what the fuss was all about.


Outsourced is a 2006 romantic comedy set in a call center in India. It was directed by John Jeffcoat with a screenplay by George Wing and John Jeffcoat.

We start with Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) learning that his job along with the rest of his sales department had just been outsourced to India. Thus his new role is to travel to the new call center and train his eventual replacement despite his own protests against the management decision. But still he makes the trip around the world and starts to run into the usual sorts of trouble that comes with cultural clashes pretty much as soon as he steps on Indian soil.

Eventually he makes it to the new call center where he meets his replacement Puro (Asif Basra) and the rest of his call center crew. The benchmark of his eventual success is pretty straightforward - he needs to bring the average call handle time down to 6 minutes despite it being at 12+ now. At first he determines the problem is how, well, Indian everyone is. And thus he focuses his coaching and training on teaching them about US culture and trying to make them as American as possible. But in time he realizes it's more than turning them into American copies but also understanding their culture and trying to figure out how to bridge the gap.

Oh, and the romantic angle involves the outspoken Asha (Ayesha Dharker), as you can see on the poster.

Now given I had watched the TV series first, I expected things to be a lot funnier in a sitcom kind of way. But there were very few zingers and sight gags this time around - in fact the first half of the movie felt like an effort to truly depict certain aspects of life in India. Thus it became a cultural tour with moments that were meant to be funny in a comedic way but instead relied a bit too much on cultural differences and ignorance.

The lead actor was okay, but not particularly striking or appealing. Nor did I really feel the chemistry between him and Asha, which is a bad thing for a romantic comedy. When you don't really see the whole romantic angle between the protagonists working out, you know something is wrong. Maybe I'm being too picky or something, but I didn't feel any sparks flying here or there. And I'm not really sure why they ended up together at all.

On the call center side of things, I generally appreciated some of the effort placed into making things generally realistic. This was an area that the TV sitcom did horribly at, thus my assessment here that it wasn't too bad in the movie. I know I do my best not to compare different incarnations of a single story / franchise to one another, but it's hard to avoid that sort of thing.

The movie had a lot of pacing issues and a plot that didn't really compel the viewer forward. It felt more like we were being dragged from sequence to sequence like some sketch comedy act. And this is probably why producers felt it might work as a sitcom - the various antics that Todd gets into here in the movie eventually made their way as individual points of focus in certain episodes.

Overall, Outsourced is a quaint movie but not one that I'd recommend either as a romantic comedy or as a way to educate others in terms of how call centers work. It gets a passable 2.5 colored powder balls out of a possible 5.



1 comment:

elmerlovesoreo said...

What's the closest portrayal of the call center industry / life of a call center agent, in Philippine cinemas? Was it Katrina Halili's "Gigil"?

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