In Offshore, filmmaker Diane Cheklich pushes “they took our jobs” resentment to its hysterical breaking point. Driven along by a gallery of excessively hammy performances and a penchant for fever-pitch plotting, the film details the consequences of a United States furniture company striking a deal with an Indian startup to outsource its call center. When the American workers hear of their impending layoffs via an all-user email from the spineless CEO, they refuse to go gently, embarking on an increasingly vicious campaign of sabotage against the three Indian trainees who arrive in short order for a rapid-fire orientation. Driven by an understandable bitterness at having to train their replacements, three of these employees begin taking their acts of disruption to criminal levels and what begins as a simple round of name-calling and lunch-line cutting soon degenerates into harassing phone calls, violent threats, and attempted physical assault.
While Cheklich aims for a certain panoramic view of the entire process, crosscutting between the call centers in the United States and India and giving screen time to both high- and low-level employees, any initial stab at objective balance quickly dissipates in favor of an overly simplistic moral accounting. The filmmaker weakly tosses out a few notes of ambiguity, such as making one of the most enthusiastic of the saboteurs Indian-American, but the film’s central narrative essentially boils down to the efforts of the noble Indian trainees to persevere in the face of a series of criminal acts perpetrated by a trio of monstrous hicks. Notwithstanding a final dissolve from a peopled call-center to a ghost town of empty cubicles that attempts to elicit sympathy for those losing their jobs, it’s no secret where the filmmaker’s sympathies lie.
By painting the downsized as a bunch of racist grotesques, an impression reinforced by the amateurishly exaggerated performances turned in by the supporting cast, Cheklich does a disservice to those Americans threatened with the very real prospect of suffering layoffs. While the one sympathetic American character is allowed to find a new job (at another call center!), the others, less flexible, are punished with a trip to the unemployment office. Just desserts, I guess, for pulling a knife on the Indian trainees, but it just goes to show that in Offshore, there’s no room for any legitimate expression of anger at the prospect of losing your lifelong position. Adapt if you can, Cheklich seems to be saying, and if you can’t, well too damn bad. After all, you probably deserve whatever you’re getting.