Made Redundant

05/29/2009 4:00 AM |

Directed by Diane Cheklich

The global economy shrinks to the size of a Detroit call center in Offshore, director Diane Cheklich’s tepid, altogether lackluster indictment of corporate outsourcing. A trio of young Mumbai employees arrives in the U.S. for training by the same beleaguered, middle-aged Americans whose jobs they will soon be eclipsing. Carol (Deb Tunis), however, wants to keep her job. Her co-workers, a group of hapless and dowdy aspiring professionals (read: Americans), join her in putting their equally hapless conspiratorial energies to use, struggling to keep their precocious Indian replacements off their phones and out of their cubicles.

Cheklich’s film, completed in 2006 but only now released theatrically in New York, wants desperately to have the relevance of a more successful post-9/11 globalization vehicle. And yet the script is too reluctant to back away from the once-prescient, now-belabored claims about the consequences of moving jobs overseas for it to feel like anything more than a bout of retrograde fist waving. What attempts are made to enlarge the scope of the film’s relevance, however, feel unconvincing, as when Carol refers to the visitors from Mumbai as “evil-doers” in Cheklich’s threadbare effort to make George W. Bush’s America an important foundation for her film’s thematic preoccupations.

But Bush’s America isn’t the foundation of this film, nor can it be. Perhaps Offshore is too aesthetically lopsided to touch the surface of the zeitgeist: cinematographer Gregg McNeil keeps the images clumsy, avoiding any earnest aesthetic decision-making. Cheklich’s film suffers precisely because it too often confuses surfaces with depth, touching with exploration, politics with cinema.

Opens May 29