MOVIE: SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
STARRING: LAKEITH STANFIELD; TESSA THOMPSON; STEVEN YEUN; ARMIE HAMMER
DIRECTED BY: BOOTS RILEY
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Original and in your face. That is how I would describe Sorry to Bother You, the madcap, dystopian future, oddball comedy from Boots Riley. For a large chunk of it, I was laughing and enjoying this strange satire, set in an alternate Oakland, California. My major problems however, are the multiple moments when the messaging didn't hit, stalling in the end, like a dead car engine. Lakeith Stanfield stars as Cassisus Green, an underpaid worker at a telemarketing company. He lives out of his uncles (Terry Crews) garage with girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), just trying to do anything to make it ahead in life, but his efforts on the phone produce little results. An elder salesman (played by Danny Glover) advises him to use his “white voice” (appearing in the voice of David Cross) to make sales. Proving the racial bias of others does exist, Cassius begins to make sales left and right, moving to the top floor as a “power caller”, and catching the eye of wealthy overlord Steve Lift (Armie Hammer). The final result? Sorry to Bother You is a fascinating film, a flawed first-time feature, which I highly admire, but it did not entirely work in the end. This is a movie that is trying to say something. I'm just not sure the message will be received.
I was reminded of the films from Terry Gilliam, sprinkled with the attempt of a social message the likes of last years phenomenal hit Get Out. If anybody tells you this is like the Oscar winner from Jordan Peele, they are far from being honest with you. There is a poignant amount of social commentary in “Sorry”, with jokes about the future state of reality television, where the only show available is called “I Got the Shit Kicked Out of Me”, which is exactly the show that it sounds like. Or how Steve Lift earns his millions in a slave work prison-style system called WorryFree and then passes it off as a paradise for those who want to get away. And those are just a few of the things that are commented on in todays reality. Sorry to Bother You is filled with so much commentary it's nearly impossible to catch it all.
Later, Cassius and his fellow telemarketing friends (Jermaine Fowler and Steven Yeun playing his two main pals) devise a plan to rise up against those in power, putting Cassisus in the conflicted position of making loads of cash as a sell-out, or sticking with his fellow man on the picket lines protesting. It is this conflict that leads Cassisus into an uncomfortable position of being viewed as a sort of “magic-token black man”, something that comes to a hilarious head in a party scene where Hammer's character thinks because Cassius is black that he can rap, but the most he can muster up is repeating the N-word over and over again to a crowd that applauds. The party scene is weird and then the giant horse-humans arrive. You heard that right. By the ending, Sorry to Bother You is so weird it lost me.
So, do I recommend Sorry to Bother You? Yes, I do, but I hope you can make more sense out of the allegory and metaphors that I sadly was not getting. There is a unique look to everything that Boots Riley has made and with each new role, Lakeith Stanfield continues to prove he is one of our brightest stars today. Maybe my rating is wrong for the time being? I just might not get it. I certainly want to see this movie again to inhale more of the seven different kinds of smoke. I just thought the entire ending crumbled apart and it's not for a lack of trying. Sorry to Bother You is one of the most original films of 2018. It's also the most frustrating too.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady