Other End Of The Line
With the level of technology what it is today an increasing number of people work remotely. I’m a person with disabilities an unable to actually commute to my work place and depend on high speed internet lines and phone to continue to work. In fact I have not been physically at my job site since the late nineties and most of the people I have never actually seen many of the people I work with. Although these circumstances would have been unthinkable only few years ago now they are commonplace and an established part of this new millennium. The combination of high end technology and the ability to work remotely has made possible another common aspect of our brave new world; the customer support call center. Whenever you have a problem with your computer, cable or credit card you call a ‘1-800’ find yourself connected to a pleasant voice on the other end of the line. This anonymous form of communication is strange at first and as someone who lives with it on a daily basis it is only natural to wonder what the remote person is really like. This is the basis of a new romantic comedy aptly named ‘Other End of the Line’. It is typical of the genre with few if any surprises afforded to the audience. In a rom-com you go into it knowing that it will be divided into three well defined acts. First is the setup where the couple gets tighter and fall in love. Then in the second act circumstances work against them to pull them apart. Then in the last act love prevails. In a flick like this success is not defined by the specifics but how well the cast and crew treat the journey.
This film is the latest in a long line of romantic flicks that depend on anonymous forms of communication. In 1940 there was the film ‘Shop Around the Corner’ where the young couple met and fell in love through letters. In 1998 one of the first forays into the computer age was made with ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and email replaced the handwritten letters. I predict that this trend will continue in the not so distant future with romances starting over ‘Twitter’ or ‘Instant messenger’. This movie has a good deal of potential but is not able to reach it entirely. It does appear to be an honest effort on the part of all involved but there are certain requirements for a film of this sort that don’t properly gel here. it is an affable flick and a good choice for a data movie but has a been there seen that feel too often.
Prior to this outing writer Tracey Jackson came up with ‘The Guru’ also concern with the differences between American and Indian culture. Jackson’s next and latest script was for ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ so she is making a career out of romantic comedies and after seeing all of them it is notable that Jackson’s mastery of her craft is improving with each opus. Like the other two screenplays she has provided this one is founded on a gimmick, falling in love with the faceless voice on the phone. To the credit of the story rapidly moves past this and settles into another well used plot device; culture clash. This theme staves off becoming hackney for the simple reason it works so exceptionally well to drive a story of this genre. Nothing seems to satisfy the target audience of his type of film like star crossed lovers. This has been the foundation for everything from ageless fairy tales to hit dramatic or musical plays. This story is a natural outgrowth of the increasing trend of globalization people routinely working with those from vastly different backgrounds. Jackson was wise to move on from the faceless phone calls fairly early in the story and shift to the interference of the young lady’s traditional parents.
Taking on the direction of this film was James Dodson who was more inclined to action and fantasy in his prior films. It takes a gentle touch to successfully pull off a romantic comedy. From the audience’s point of view this might seem like a simple form of cinema but there is a lot that has to be done just right. Dodson shows promise here but he is on a learning curve and not there yet. One thing is the timing; it has to have military like precision. The humor is derived from a combination of situations and character development and that demands that the audience be given enough time to become invested in the central characters. In this movie the situation is set up well but there was no spark between the leads. This is in part at least due to casting and that ultimately falls on the director. The male lead of Granger Woodruff is played by Jesse Metcalfe who has experience ranging from an underage boy toy in ‘Desperate Housewives’ to the titular character in ‘John Tucker Must Die’. On the female side of the equation we have Shriya portraying the beautiful Priya Sethi. She is rather well known in her native India but a newcomer in the States. It is not even their fault that the chemistry was lacking. Romantic comedies have traditionally been the launching ground for ‘A’ list stars and has therefore set the bar high for audiences. The actors here are going to be compared by the viewers to the likes of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan or for us older members of the audience Rock Hudson and Doris Day. Shriya and Metcalfe are very capable young actors but there just no spark to their interaction to carry the film.
When Granger becomes a victim of identity theft he calls the help desk of his bank and is connected to one of the customer service representatives, Priya. She introduces herself as Jennifer and speaks in a perfect American accent. Little does Granger know at first is the lovely voice is coming from India. Priya is infatuated with American culture. Her job at the call center is just perfect for her as it gives he a chance to pretend to be an American. Her persona of Jennifer is complete including saying she lives in San Francisco. In a fashion that could only work in a movie like this they pair fall in love and plan to meet in person. Priya comes from a very traditional family. They are against her pretending to be American at work and the idea of having an American boyfriend is repugnant to them. Her mother and father have arranged a marriage for Priya to nice, traditional Indian man, Vikram Bhaitia (Asheesh Kapur). She not only doesn’t love him she barely knows him.
The film admittedly could have been better but as it is this is an enjoyable light hearted romantic comedy that might go well for an at home date night with your wife or girlfriend.