When it comes to films about travel, there are more bad movies than good ones. Case in point: “The Way” (2010), which stars Martin Sheen as a doctor who treks the Camino de Santiago (in Spain and France) following the death of his son. There wasn’t a bead of sweat on the characters during the entire film, and I’ve never seen so many trekkers wearing jeans. Every few minutes the characters talk about how no one walks “the way” without being on a personal journey. We got it. The first time.
Sure, there are definitely a handful of spectacular films that fuel my wanderlust–I can’t watch “The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004) without getting the overwhelming urge to hop on a plane to Buenos Aires–but none seem to capture the entire experience of travel.
Recently, though, on the recommendation of a fellow traveler, I saw an excellent film called “Outsourced” (2006). The main character, a thirty-something manager named Todd, is sent to a small town in India after learning that his entire order fulfillment department has been outsourced. Todd, who works at a company that sells novelty items, is there to teach the new employees how to speak with an American accent and how to deal with American customers. The ensuing US/India culture clash forms the meat of the film.
“Outsourced” gets the details right: Todd is rushed by taxi drivers at the Mumbai airport, gets a case of “Delhi Belly” that comes at the worst moment (and without toilet paper), and constantly gets robbed by finger-happy kids. At one point, Todd, having just arrived in the small town, is picked up by his new Indian trainee. They’re stuck in cow-related traffic, and Todd sweats profusely, clearly overcome by the chaos. “You like India?” asks his eager trainee. A moment later, Todd, not realizing that the trainee is his new replacement, explains that what he really does is “sell kitsch to rednecks. Now I have to train some other schmuck to do it.” His trainee replies: “Would you kindly be telling me, what is kitsch, and what is redneck, and what is schmuck?”
There is a romantic story line here, but thankfully, no cliched salvation in a relationship. “Outsourced,” unlike “The Way,” doesn’t hammer you over the head with its message. Instead it takes you on a trip, and in doing so, does a wonderful job of conveying what it’s like to be thrown into an entirely new and different place. (Incidentally, a television adaptation of “Outsourced” was picked up by NBC but cancelled after one season.)
Feel free to share your favorite travel films in the comments!