Film Review: Sorry To Bother You

10:05 July 16, 2018
By: David Vicari

Sorry to Bother You is a nutty, yet sharply-pointed social and political satire. This is one hell of a feature debut from musician Boots Riley, who wrote and directed the film.

Young African-American man Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield)  is unemployed and living in his uncle's garage. The best thing in his life is his pretty artist girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), but he is frustrated that he can't support her. He gets happier when he finds a job—it's a commission-only telemarketing job, but at least it's a job. Cassius sucks at telemarketing until an older black co-worker (Danny Glover) tells him to use his “white voice” with customers (in the hilarious “white voice” scenes, Stanfield is dubbed over by actor/comedian David Cross).

Needless to say, by using this trick, Cassius begins to make sales. He gets so good, in fact, that he is moved upstairs and becomes a “Power Caller,” leaving behind his co-worker friends who are protesting for higher wages. Upstairs is where Cassius meets the company's CEO—rich, white playboy Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), who has a disturbing plan to get employees to work faster.

I wouldn't dream of revealing any more of the plot. Just know that it truly goes bananas . . . in a good way. I mean, it gets Repo Man crazy. If you are unfamiliar, 1984's endlessly quotable cult classic comedy Repo Man is about the zany day-to-day adventures of car repossession, but it has a crucial subplot about space aliens hiding in the trunk of  a car.

The performances in Sorry to Bother You are pitch-perfect, a difficult task considering that the actors have to navigate this odd-ball film's fluctuating tone. Lead actor Stanfield (Get Out, Short Term 12) is particularly good because he makes you like and understand his character, even when he is doing unlikable things.

Sorry to Bother You could have used some tighter editing, as it does meander a bit. And some jokes do fall flat. However, it is a worthy movie that comments on the current state of America: Many jobs out there don't pay enough for workers to actually support themselves, and racism is, unfortunately, alive and well. 

*** out of four

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