Pair lush surrealistic imagery (that’s a punch in the face all its own) with a script satirically tackling tokenism, code-switching, gentrification, slave-mentality (and literal slavery), inequality, nihilism, corporate greed, selling out, and the onslaught of sociopolitical and economic anxiety that ultimately leads to a dystopian hellscape for those who can’t afford utopia with insightful skill, and you’ve got Sorry To Bother You.
And that’s a good thing.
Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is on the hunt for a job that will move him out of his Uncle Sergio’s (Terry Crews) garage and set him on his path to financial security. He soon lands a job as a telemarketer at RegalView (in a scene that’ll be far too recognizable for some *ahem* jobseekers watching when they start talking about that resume – dead-ass, I turned and looked at my movie buddy with a raised eyebrow; you know you have at least homie who tried it).
In this alternate Oakland, Cassius ruminates with his avant-garde artist/activist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) about his need to “leave a mark on the world” to avoid fading into nothingness in the future. He wants to matter. Cassius is more than ready to the needful to make it to the good life (and he assumes a lasting legacy).
After his first few telemarketing calls, Langston (Danny Glover), Cassius’s older co-worker, advises him to use his “white voice” (David Cross) on calls in order to connect with his clients and make the sell (if you don’t know what a white voice is, then it’s a good bet one’s been used on you more times that you’ll care to think back and count).
But, while Cassius is focused on his come up, his fellow telemarketers, led by earnest Squeeze (Steven Yeun) and the refreshingly (and hilariously) bombastic Salvador (Jermaine Fowler) prepare to strike as a call to unionize and demand a living wage from the corporate powers that be.
As tensions rise – and battle lines are drawn – Cassius – and his savant-like ability – gets tapped by Mr. Blank (Omari Hardwick), fellow master of the “white voice” (Patton Oswalt), to work on the floor where the real money’s made.
There’s just one catch, the top salespeople at RegalView aren’t encyclopedia subscriptions to grandma to make all those lovely coins…
…and by the time Cassius meets the man behind it all, entrepreneur Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), he’ll be confronted with some next-level WTF (yes, that’s now a technical term for I’m not spoiling today) that’ll leave him no choice but to pick a side…and then live with the consequences.
‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a brilliant socio-political satire serving some serious comedy gold…You shouldn’t miss it.
The deliberate thematic incongruity with which writer/director and Riley’s story plays out on the screen with such outrageous hilarity will keep audiences laughing even as folks nod their heads as the film’s more controversial themes grow pointed and more overt.
Riley’s allegory came is unfuckwithable. You can (and should) watch this film multiple times and still catch something new to side-eye in this outrageous adventure in code-switching.
Riley uses biting humor and lush visuals to lure audiences into a state of belief in this version of Oakland (and the rest of the world) that makes the slow reveal of the rancid underbelly Cassius repeatedly turns a blind eye to in order to keep his advancement – and those fat paychecks – opportunities coming hit even harder.
It must be said, I can’t think of another actor who could’ve brought just the right of dudebro, devilish charm, and devilishness to the Steve Lift than Armie Hammer. So I’d like to thank the universe that this man is finally getting roles that show the breadth of his skills. Sorry To Bother You wouldn’t have the same impact without him especially when things get, weird.
Cassius’s journey captures the mini-existential crisis plenty of folks suffer through trying to make an impact but remain authentically themselves while earning a decent living. The entire story-line underscores how rife with moral dilemmas and Faustian choices just to trying to change with the tides and stay employed truly can be.
Lakeith Stanfield embodies this struggle with his mellow smooth…awkwardness. the juxtaposition between his character and the more bombastic Salvador played with some out-and-out great comedic flair by Jermaine Fowler illustrates the different paths taken by otherwise similarly situated men dissatisfied with their economic lot in life.
An even more subtle by-play happens between Stanfield’s character and Detroit brought to stunning life by Tessa Thompson. Detroit is an enlightened mixed-media artist unafraid to put her self and her beliefs on the line to speak truth to power. But, don’t get it twisted, Detroit intends to see success in her lifetime. But her code-switch game and bomb-ass “white voice” (Lily James) will feel more familiar to a segment of the audience. Not that it distracts from the subtle dig that this “woke” chick runs game to get by too. We all know, that’s a work mode for her (and like most folks; one she sheds just as soon as she clears the cameras of the building she works in).
So how do you reconcile her seeming ease with accepting the benefits of Cassius’s success? You can’t and the very problematicness of her nature makes this problematic woman even more layered and intriguing. Tessa’s Detroit is vibrant, relatable, just street enough to make her glow-up that more impressive and the perfect foil to Cassius’s willingness to sell out to move up.
And for the record, Tessa Thompson can do whatever she wants in life, and if she’s permitting people to watch, I’m always going to pay for a seat. Her versatility and ability to bring depth to even the smallest role is clearly just one of her goddess powers.
Sorry to Bother You may be Boots Riley‘s debut film, but if it’s an example of what he intends to continually bring to the table I’m all the way here for it. The issues at play in Sorry To Bother You will leave audiences with a whole new angle to start a real conversation American’s long overdue to have with itself about the shit its people get up to.
There’s nothing better than a film fueled by hyperrealistic fever dreams that call to mind the controversial (but necessary) work of Melvin Van Peebles, or an allegory that encompasses more than a few centuries of strife all rooted in an ultra-modern version of the now.
At least I don’t think so.
Rating 5 out of 5
Your thoughts and opinions are important to us. Please leave a comment in the section. If this is your first time visiting, please be sure to read the Privacy / Terms and Conditions Of Use.