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Sorry to Bother You - Movie Review

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Sorry to Bother You - Movie Review

4 starsIn spite of its title, Sorry to Bother You is indeed out to bother you. But sorry about it? Not hardly.

The film marks the directorial debut of Oakland-based rapper-turned-filmmaker Boots Riley, and what a debut it is. It is a weird and bizarre film, yet also insanely brilliant. At times it is even purposefully offensive. But most importantly, Sorry to Bother You is fresh and socially relevant, making it one of the most meaningful films you’ll see this year. I promise.

The film broke to critical acclaim with its 2018 Sundance and South By Southwest film festival debuts, and almost overnight, Riley was mentioned in the same breath as Spike Lee and Jordan Peele, while the film continues to draw stark comparisons to 2017’s Get Out.

"When Sorry to Bother You hits, it hits hard. Sometimes a swift kick to the head is what we need."


Though I’m not quite ready to go to those lengths just yet, I will go on the record as agreeing that Riley is one of the hottest up-and-coming voices in the business right now, and one that deserves our attention going forward. He has a lot of stuff to say about a lot of important issues, and possesses the innate ability to get his message across; an ability that will always piss a lot of people off. Something Hollywood probably needs right now.

Cassius Green (Get Out’s Lakeith Stanfield) is a casualty left behind in our current times of full employment. Jobless, broke, on the verge of being evicted, and living in his uncle’s garage with performance artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), Cassius takes a miserable commission-only sales job as a telemarketer.

Things are not going too well until Cassius receives a tip from old-timer Langston (Danny Glover) who assures Cassius that using his “white voice” will result in more sales. “I’m not talking about your Will Smith white voice,” he adds. It does and Cassius quickly becomes a “power caller” which gets him promoted upstairs – via the golden elevator – to a world of high-paid sales people where using your “white voice” is encouraged at all times. The “white voices” are dubbed by Patton Oswalt and David Cross and work to side-splitting effect.

Our first hint at Riley’s filmmaking ingenuity comes as Cassius is making his first phone calls. Rather than a one-sided or split-screen conversation, Cassius’s workstation drops into the homes of his customers where he is forced to watch the person’s reaction as he makes his pitch. The treatment is both jolting and life-affirming, as we’ve all had our dinners or intimate moments interrupted by a sales call.

Cassius’s sudden success comes at the expense of his friends and co-workers who decide to unionize for better wages and benefits. This forces Cassius into the conundrum of having to chase prosperity or salvage friendships – a main theme Riley hits early and often.

We soon learn that this is leading up to the film’s big reveal which is both extremely creepy and sheepishly funny, but even more so, quite confusing and takes a bit of thought to reconcile. It comes when Cassius is visiting Lift (Armie Hammer), the CEO at one of the company’s over-the-top swanky orgy/parties. When Cassius asks to use the restroom, he discovers a half-horse, half-human hybrid – lovingly called an “Equi-sapien” – begging for his help.

Sorry to Bother You - Movie Review

Cassius eventually uncovers the truth about the company that has been secretly supporting the services of a shady outfit called WorryFree – an organization that exploits the downtrodden by offering steady work and sloppy meals in return for what amounts to indentured servitude. A special drug causes the WorryFree workers to turn into the stronger, more proficient Equi-sapiens. Did I mention that the Equi-sapiens have extremely huge penises? It is a visual joke that riffs on the myth of African-American physiology. I never said that Sorry to Bother You is subtle.

Riley takes on many (probably too many) hot-button societal issues in Sorry to Bother You, the most important of which deals with rising up in society and selling out, an issue always at the forefront in African-American culture. The topic is certainly nothing new to cinema, but the fun is in the way Riley harps on its significance with his unique satirical bite. He also has plenty to say about corporate greed and corruption, capitalism, our always-online society, and our constant thirst for ridicule and shame of others. It might have been a better film with a tighter focus and a slightly shorter runtime. But as it is, the film is excessive, unsubtle, uneven, and often over the top at times. Many will certainly accuse it of being a bit too over the top, but make no mistake, it is a purposeful exercise in discomfort and painful soul-searching. And it works.

When Sorry to Bother You hits, it hits hard. Sometimes a swift kick to the head is what we need.

Sorry to Bother You - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use.
Runtime:
105 mins
Director
: Boots Riley
Writer:
Boots Riley
Cast:
Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler
Genre
: Comedy | Satire
Tagline:
Sorry to Bother You.
Memorable Movie Quote: "This is telemarketing. Stick to the script."
Theatrical Distributor:
Annapurna Pictures
Official Site: sorrytobotheryou.movie
Release Date:
July 6, 2018
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 11, 2016
Synopsis: In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a macabre universe.

Sorry to Bother You - Movie Review

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Sorry to Bother You - Movie Review

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