Peer to Peer Magazine

March 2012

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 65 of 103

I make it a point not to read anyone else's review of a movie before watching it or writing about it, to avoid absorbing others' opinions. Such was the case for the 2006 comedy, OUTSOURCED. Still, I have to admit that I approached it with a bit of trepidation, fearing from the sound of its title — and the fact that it had been turned into a TV sitcom that was cancelled in less than a full season — that it might be one of those comedies so popular today that features forgettable dialogue, less-than-stellar acting and poking fun at somebody's expense. But boy, was I wrong! OUTSOURCED, it turns out, is a sweet, credible (well, mostly) romantic comedy that introduces us to characters we can all identify with — workers caught up in the globalization of the world economy who must stretch and grow to survive. And the film deftly manages to do so without depicting any culture in an unfair light. Adapting to the work ways in other countries is something many of us are dealing with these days in person, online and on the phone. The film opens with unhappy news for Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton), the 32-year-old manager of a Seattle customer call center. With total lack of sentiment, his bottom line-focused boss, Dave (Matt Smith), informs him that the entire Order Fulfillment Department is about to be outsourced to India, where labor is much cheaper than in the U.S., and that Todd's own job will end as soon as he trains his replacement in India and halves the time of each telephone sales transaction. Grudgingly, Todd travels abroad and is immediately slammed with total culture shock (his name is pronounced "Toad" by everyone he meets). He finds himself confused by everything from how to board a rapidly moving train to hiring a taxi and learning, in a very amusing scene, why eating with the right hand is proper and eating with the left is horrifying to Indians. Housed in a new building that looks like a military bunker, the Indian call center is staffed by willing novices whom Todd endeavors to train to work and sound like Americans. Todd makes little progress until one star on the staff, the beautiful and brainy Asha (Ayesha Dharker), convinces him that he will succeed in his mission not by trying to turn his Indian employees into Americans, but by learning about Indian culture and letting them be themselves. He takes her advice (starting with actually asking his staff what would make them happier workers), and, in the process, he falls in love not only with India and its people, but with Asha as well. Sales go up, call transaction times goes down, teamwork overcomes the inevitable obstacles, and all is well. And then, in quick succession, Todd learns that Asha is engaged to another man in accordance with Indian tradition, Todd's boss (remember Dave, who outsourced to India because labor was so cheap) pays a surprise visit to the bunker to see how things are going and informs Todd that the company has now decided to outsource order fulfillment to China because labor is even cheaper there. Will Todd take the manager's job in China for additional pay and perks? Will Asha trade her ritualized planned marriage for true love? What's the fate of the man Todd was training to be his (Courtesy of IMDb and other sources) • Among the knickknacks on Dave's bookshelf at Western Novelty is a figure of J.P. Patches, a popular children's entertainer in the Seattle area during the '60s and '70s. • When Todd first arrives at the airport in India and is making his way through the group holding signs looking for people, the name on one sign is Gwen Bialic (co-producer of this and other popular movies). • The note that Asha passes to Todd is a page torn from "The Kama Sutra." The caption reads, "Any posture is unsatisfactory if kissing is impossible." • When Todd is being driven to the train station in the rickshaw, his position and the position of his luggage keep switching from one side to the other, depending on the location of the camera. replacement in India, not to mention his entire Indian staff? And will Todd ever get used to spicy Indian food? You'll have to rent OUTSOURCED yourself to find out, and I highly recommend you do so. Because in it you'll find many useful lessons about today's cross-cultural world, not least of which is that surviving and thriving in new cultures, whether on the job or off, isn't just about learning and adapting to the differences; it's about discovering and appreciating the similarities. Andy Spiegel is a creative director for a business software company based in Austin, Texas, and he's a freelance writer. An ardent movie watcher, he maintains a blog called "Austinlad's Private Screening Room," which spotlights movie reviews of films from the '30s to today. He can be reached at Peer to Peer 67

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