Outsourced, the Seattle-produced movie opening Friday at the Majestic Bay Theater in Ballard, is both sly and subversive.
A tale of love found in the unlikely setting of a telephone boiler room on the cruel side of capitalism, Outsourced is a major new effort from ShadowCatcher Entertainment. It's an impressive feature debut by director John Jeffcoat, and a strong performance by a cast that includes Seattle actor Matt Smith in a breakthrough performance as a manipulative boss. Smith is familiar to Seattle theater-goers, especially for his solo show, My Last Year with the Nuns, easily one of the best pieces ever staged about our city.
The movie tells the story of a Seattle-based businessman, Todd Anderson (played by Josh Hamilton), who is told by his boss, Dave (Smith), that the company's entire order-fullfilment staff will be replaced by a crew in India. Anderson is told to go to India, train the new crew, or quit and forfeit his stock options.
As a comedy, the story of what happens follows a familiar structure. Anderson goes to India with the wrong attitude but learns that, to succeed as a manager and a human being, he must open himself to learning about India and its people, especially a talented employee, beautiful Asha (Ayesha Dharke). If the film has a flaw, the script by Jeffcoat and George Wing gives us one too many stereotypes, such as a cow wandering into an office or the total cluelessness of Anderson. But the film succeeds because of its many charms, and you have to admire how an appealing love story also serves as a subtle examination of globalism. Anderson's fictional company is typical of many across the U.S. that have shifted work, such as call centers, from here to there. There's a human cost on both sides, and what sneaks up as you watch Outsourced is realization of the effects when economics treat people as mere costs and individual dignity as irrelevant. Outsourced doesn't try to resolve the issues it raises, but it should be required viewing in MBA programs.
Outsourced is also an interesting experiment by ShadowCatcher and its owner/manager, David Skinner. As described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's William Arnold, ShadowCatcher is trying to bypass traditional film distribution by self-funding the advertising, printing, and promotion of the movie. Traditional distribution deals for independent films provide little promotion or share of a film's sales. So this is an interesting gamble, a little movie with a kind of revolution in mind. Let's hope it finds an audience. See it.
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