Appellate Judge James A. Stewart hopes his next collision with a beautiful woman works as well as this one.
"Hell, you know more about me than my own mother."—Granger Woodruff to call center operator Jennifer David
On the day I screened The Other End of the Line, I started out the day watching the last episode of Sex and the City, in which Carrie Bradshaw is a fish out of water in Paris and finds herself making a romantic choice. The Other End of the Line also finds a fish out of water making a romantic choice; its fish, Priya, is a Mumbai woman swimming to San Francisco on the eve of an arranged marriage she isn't happy with.
By the end of The Other End of the Line, I was thinking of Priya as sort of the anti-Carrie Bradshaw, since she packs a gentle innocence instead of cynicism, attitude, and edginess.
Facts of the Case
New York ad man Granger Woodruff (Jesse Metcalfe, Desperate Housewives) isn't making a good impression on client Kit Hawksin (Larry Miller, Get Smart), who describes his hotel commercial as "low-rent porn." He's got one last chance to save the account with a visit to Hawksin's San Francisco hotel.
On a date, Granger's credit card is rejected, thanks to an identity thief. He enlists the help of call center operator Jennifer David to sort through his charges, which could take quite a few calls. As they talk, she gives him a surefire cold remedy, and he turns out to have racked up late charges on The Notebook. Since his relationship is on hold and Jennifer mentioned that she's working out of a San Francisco office, Granger asks Jennifer to meet him when he's on his business trip.
That's not going to be so easy. Jennifer's real name is Priya Sethi (Shriya, Awarapan), she's really in Mumbai, and her parents have arranged nuptials for her. She could just tell him that, but it wouldn't be much of a movie, so she decides to make a trip to San Francisco to meet the man at the other end of the line.
Granger doesn't recognize her at the bar where they're supposed to meet, but he does run into her—literally—with a luggage cart at the hotel, where they're both staying. Priya decides to be herself, not Jennifer, and they soon start to fall for each other.
Meanwhile, Priya's parents figure out why she's in the States and head over to get her head out of the clouds.
Sweet is the first word that ran through my mind as I watched The Other End of the Line. Whether Granger is helping Priya after knocking her over as they meet cute or Priya is sharing a cold remedy, everything just seems sweet. Even when the couple is arguing, it seems to blow away quickly, and one of those arguments even takes place in a children's play house.
The second word that ran through my mind was retro. An ad man named Granger Woodruff? Is this the Sixties? The farcical moments, as when Priya's dad mistakes client Hawksin for Granger and gets pugilistic, or when Granger's ex turns up in the hotel room just before Priya, seem to reference those Sixties farces, even if they play out gentler. In the San Francisco scenes, the soft jazzy score even had that retro feel at times.
The third word that ran through my mind was travelogue. The location scenes of Priya in Mumbai and Granger and Priya in San Francisco reminded me of some old Technicolor romantic comedy set in Paris or Rome. All three cities—Mumbai, New York, and San Francisco—look like picture postcards, even though Mumbai is speeded up a bit to show off its modernity. Director James Dodson (Gilded Stones) has a slick touch as he switches back and forth between Mumbai and New York, so the film looks great throughout.
The movie takes some mild, good-natured jabs at the cultural divide, showing call center workers getting a training course in differentiating between Sarah Michelle Gellar and Sarah Jessica Parker or having a worker complain about being assigned to New Jersey, where customers swear. "Everyone starts in New Jersey and works their way out," her supervisor says. The funniest gag in the movie pokes fun at Americans; Granger is seen on a dinner date as he and his girlfriend are both making cell-phone business calls.
As Priya, Shriya is a good comedienne, calling Granger from the restroom as Jennifer when she's on a date or stumbling as she arrives in San Francisco. Her Doris Day sort of wholesomeness will win viewers over, and her reluctance over the arranged marriage gives her some good emotional moments. As Granger, Jesse Metcalfe is good-natured but bland. Having recently seen To Catch a Thief, I realize the ladies always have stolen the show, but Cary Grant puts up at least a little more resistance. As for the rest of the cast, they're good, but one-dimensional.
The version of the film I watched was a screener, but I didn't have any problems with the picture or sound. If you wanted to hear about filming in two different countries, you won't; there are no extras.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There may still be room for culture clash, but it's hard to believe that Granger hasn't tried Indian food before, and, with American TV shows being shown around the globe, there must be a lot of young Indian women who could tell Sarah Michelle Gellar and Sarah Jessica Parker apart without a workplace lecture.
While sweet is the word that I had in mind, there was one brief bedroom scene and some talk about sex between Granger and a buddy to get it up to a PG-13. After all, a G or a PG is something to be avoided at all costs nowadays, isn't it?
If you have a low tolerance for sweet, you'll sour on The Other End of the Line. I liked it, but it's a lightweight movie that produced a few smiles here and there. If the premise sounds interesting, you might consider renting on a slow night, but it's a forgettable throwaway rather than a must-see.
Could you hand down a guilty verdict to someone as sweet as Priya? I
couldn't. Not guilty.
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