Sometimes it really does just boil down to the appeal of the actors in the thing. THE OTHER END OF THE LINE tends to get bogged down by its share of cliches and contrived situations, but damn if Indian actress Shriya Saran isn't so endearing onscreen that she pulls and tugs and drags the movie into this side of quite watchable. THE OTHER END OF THE LINE happens to be one of those cross-culture romantic comedies which often gets labeled as sweet and cute but predictable, and, with this movie, that's pretty much on point. But, still, check this out for the terrific Shriya Saran and also for her romantic lead Jesse Metcalf, who rocks them Pete Sampras/Carson Daly looks but who thankfully seems to have more charisma than those two champions of bland.
The plot: Granger Woodruff (Jesse Metcalf) is an up-and-coming New York adman who, whilst falling victim to electronic identity theft, ends up making a strong connection with his friendly credit-card tech support operator, Jennifer David. The phone conversations start out as strictly business, yes, but then something clicks between the two and, soon, their chit chats are wandering into the personal. Since Jennifer is based out of San Francisco, and since Granger has to be there for a crucial business meet, it's only natural that a curious Granger asks to see Jennifer in person.
Ah-ha! but then the rub: Jennifer David from Frisco, it turns out, is actually Priya Sethi (Shriya Saran) who flaunts a flawless American accent and toils at a credit card call center in Mumbai, India. So Priya not only is far, far away from Frisco but she's also engaged to be married, in one of those traditional arranged marriage deals. But Priya nurses a restlessness within her, and she longs for one big adventure before she does get married (her fiance, as we come to learn, is dull as the dickens). So Priya Sethi a.k.a. Jennifer David agrees to a date with Granger and off she flies to San Francisco, her heart a-burstin' and hope, this starry gleam in her eyes.
Absolutely, you've seen plenty of romantic comedies like THE OTHER END OF THE LINE before. But, then again, you don't watch stuff like this for its originality as much as for its familiar warmth and crazy romance and its just plain "comfort food" sensibilitity. THE OTHER END OF THE LINE also functions as an easy intro to Indian cinema. And, believe me, if you at all enjoyed the exotic elements featured here, then experiencing an actual Indian film (whether Bollywood, Tamil, or Telugu) will blow you away. Indian cinema is awesome and will drown you in vivid colors, splendid costumes, all-out musical numbers, unabashed emotion, and sweeping romances. That last sentence is a shout-out for all the ladies who haven't yet experienced Indian cinema. For the guys, all I'll say is that Indian women are absolute hotties. On the down side, Bollywood and its like tend to also indulge in infantile humor and mawkish melodrama, as well as being really long (an average Indian film runs to around two and a half hours). But, odds are, once you get hooked into Bollywood, you're then a fan for life.
If you're hankering for more romantic East Meets West shenanigans, I recommend [[ASIN:B00198TUO4 Outsourced]] (also about a call center romance) and [[ASIN:B00094AS9U Bride and Prejudice]] (which isn't, but it does showcase the stunning Aishwarya Rai).
Going back to THE OTHER END OF THE LINE, the huge plus, as mentioned, is lead actress Shriya Saran, who turns in a self-assured and very sympathetic performance, as well as exhibiting a pretty convincing American accent. Jesse Metcalf is also good. Larry Miller, mischievous in that deadpan way of his, comes in for a great supporting role, playing the owner of an international chain of posh hotels. One subplot centers on Granger Woodruff and his advertising partner struggling to secure the ad campaign for Larry Miller's hotel chain, and it's a tough road to hoe when the most winning catch phrase they can come up with is "Our mini-bars will get you maxi-drunk."
Two miscues really bother me. First, there's an unconvincing scene at a party in which Priya overhears a conversation between Granger and his inebriated buddy and she instantly assumes the worst. To me, this smacks simply of the writer(s) trying to come up with something, anything to generate tension and to temporarily put the two leads at odds. Which is fine, but please come with something stronger and not so trumped-up and lazy. Then there's a scene near the end in which Granger is in the middle of making a toast at his best friend's wedding when he's clobbered by an epiphany and abruptly takes off. Now, given, the man had just realized that Priya is slipping away from him and so he must take immediate steps blah blah blah... But all I could think of in watching that scene is how he left his best friend hanging and probably very unamused. I think these two moments, more than anything else, undermine what otherwise is an entertaining film. See if you agree.
While I dug all the lovey-dovey courtship going on between Priya and Granger, I found the workplace sequences in India to be pretty compelling stuff and very funny. To add to the Ugly American reputation, there seems to be this disturbing insular behavior which the movie attributes to Americans. Thus, polite overseas workers like those in India not only have to pretend to an American accent but also must attend classes on American pop culture. Else, the American customer may not be so accepting. And, sadly, that's probably a valid thing. It's funny that the most undesirable assignment for these overseas operators is the New Jersey section, with its hordes of rude, profane customers. Basically, all new hires start out in Jersey and must work their way out. Which just goes to show that everyone really does poke fun at Jersey. It figures.
3.5 out of 5 stars for THE OTHER END OF THE LINE.