Jeffcoat sprinkles images of Kali throughout the scenes, setting up Todd's "destruction" that begins during an encounter with another American businessman (Larry Pine) in a faux-McDonald's (even with cows wandering into the call center, Todd can't find a cheeseburger to save his life). The stranger advises Todd that the only way to keep from being defeated by India is to "give in" to India. It's not a perspective shift that comes easily to Todd. He would never "go native" like Kevin Costner in a seriocomic Dances with Cows.
However, his co-workers' notions of the importance of family, an accidental collision with the annual Holi celebration of color (think ultimate street paint ball), face-to-face encounters with poverty, and Asha's guidance through a society with strict codes against public displays of affection... it all contributes to Todd's transformative deconstruction. A scene where he literally "takes the plunge" is presented like a metaphorical baptism.
There is, again predictably, a third-act crisis that puts Todd and the entire call center staff in peril. And there's a revelation about Asha's dependence on a (by some standards) regressive custom that can only destroy their romance after it has barely begun. But in each case the script chooses the side of restraint by not falling back on drawn-out or overwrought Hollywood contrivances. Instead, resolutions arrive believably and with just enough seasoning that, even if we aren't pumping our fists in the air, we're rooting for the characters with an agreeable "namaste" vibe that feels earned rather than forced upon us. There are no big surprises in Outsourced, though there are enough small ones to carry us through quite enjoyably.
Outsourced avoids relying on stereotypes, ridicule or unnecessary exaggeration to do its work. Some broad brushes do get used now and then, but neither the "ugly American" nor the India that engulfs him are drawn as caricatures. A knowingness, an honestly achieved understanding of what it's like being an American experiencing India shows through the frames. In fact, Outsourced has been well-received by audiences in India and by Indian-American crowds in the U.S. largely because of Jeffcoat's open eye for detail and authenticity. He populates his generous location shots with numerous local non-actors who bring lived-in faces and refreshing genuineness to the film's high production values.
The score by B.C. Smith blends Western pop influences (such as Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder) with that familiar flavor of sitar-based "Bollywood" music that you can't not bob your head in time to.
Outsourced had its world premiere at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. Since then it has had crowd-pleasing runs at film festivals worldwide, including winning the Audience Award at the Seattle International Film Festival. ShadowCatcher Entertainment is distributing the film independently in select theaters. Positive reviews from Roger Ebert, The New York Times and others, plus strong word-of-mouth buzz, have guaranteed a second wave of a wider theatrical run. The DVD is currently available on the official Outsourced site, where you'll also find Jeffcoat's director's blog..
Ken Kwapis, of NBC's The Office, was so taken with the film that he approached Jeffcoat about turning it into a TV series for NBC. Both Jeffcoat and collaborator George Wing (who coincidentally is also writing a feature script for Steve Carell) are creatively involved with writing and casting the pilot, which, if it all comes together as they hope, could air next fall.
Recently, I sat down with Jeffcoat, Wing and composer B.C. Smith; Film.com will run that interview later this week.