You know you’re witnessing a wonderfully unique movie when an old, (I’m talking like 80-year olds) pretentious white couple walk out of the theater because they’re so confused and appalled at the things that they just simply don’t want to even try to enjoy nor understand. If race-related Get Out, surrealistic/scifi-ish Being John Malkovich, and realistically relatable Office Space got together and had a threesome, Sorry To Bother You would be their modern day lovechild. 2018 has most definitely seen its share of strange movies, (The Endless, anyone?) but Sorry To Bother You just might take the proverbial cake. And when I say cake, I mean one huge cake with 14 different rainbow layers and 17 different flavors of chocolate, vanilla, birthday cake, lemon, strawberry…that’s how many different genres and themes this thing tackles within its 105-minute run time…
Boots Riley, from hip hop band The Coup, makes his directorial debut with this story about an alternate, present-day surreality within his hometown of Oakland, California. We are introduced to Cassius “Cash” Green, (Get Out‘s Lakeith Stanfield) a broke millennial who lives in his uncle’s garage, who existentially waxes off about whether or not anything he has done in his life will “matter” when everyone eventually dies and the sun falls out of the sky- to his artsy, activist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson)…like millennials do, of course. (Side note: pay attention to Detroit’s handmade earrings and outfits that contain subliminal messages.) Within the very first scene, Cassius is shown putting on his best face forward in a job interview, where we (at first) are made to believe that this employer is buying into his desperate bullshit to land the job…only to be fooled at the boss’s hilarious call-out that he doesn’t give a shit about who you are or what your so-called accomplishments are; if you can make some sales, he’ll hire you, regardless. Instantly, I was hooked. Who can’t relate to that state of desperation, and the taking on of jobs that you know from the get-go that you’ll probably despise and have to compromise your morals for later ?
When Cassius gets hired for the telemarketing job at the sleazy firm called RegalView, he meets and befriends his other coworkers, who, like him, are just desperate to have a paycheck for the rent, even if their cubicle-filled, telemarketing job is killing their morale each day. As you may have caught from the trailer, when Cassius first starts out, and has a hard time making sales off of potential clients (who also seem desperate in their own rights) coworker Langston (Danny Glover) advises him to use his “white voice,” and Cassius instantly catches on, becoming a valued sensation at the office– eventually moving up to an even higher position to make even more money, alienating his friends and his girlfriend. Ahh, the American dream can really suck you in sometimes.
In the meantime, a suspicious and controversial company called WorryFree offers people a place to live, food, and the relief from paying bills, in exchange for a lifetime contract of working– which a radical activist group called “The Left Eye” vehemently protest and oppose. The ads on TV catch Cassius’s eye at times, but this doesn’t become relevant until a later point in the plot, in which WorryFree CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer, playing against type as a coke-snorting d-bag) wants to recruit Cassius for a special position, one that had me nearly jumping out of my seat in a “HE WANTS HIM TO DO WHAT?!” kind of fashion.
From this point forward, Sorry To Bother You has A LOT it wants to say, and only so much time to say it. This is probably my only small critique of the film. Bring on the weird; bring on the social critiques; bring on the innovative, surreal shots that make you feel like Cassius is actually inside the room with the potential clients he’s trying to pitch a sale to…I’m here for all of it. But you’re definitely throwing A LOT at me when you’re giving me a story about 1) American greed and capitalism; 2) selling out and becoming rich versus staying loyal to your art; 3) African Americans trying to stay afloat in a Caucasian-dominated America; 4) America’s obsessions with reality television, social media, humiliation, and degradation; 5) slave labor; 6) the power of technology; 7) culture appropriation; and 8) police brutality…just to name a handful of the topics depicted with one hour and 45 minutes. Whew. I’m exhausted just typing all of that.
Regardless of its overstuffed-ness, Sorry To Bother You works– because, not only will you be laughing when things are satirical and darkly funny, but also when things become so bizarre within the third act that you’ll be giggling/whispering yourself, “What the fuck was that!?” Certainly did NOT see that sci-fi twist coming. Sometimes you need to go so far off the damn rails in surreality, in order for a film’s messages to make sense from a broad standpoint. Sorry accomplishes that, to say the least.
Much like Jordan Peele’s writing for the screenplay of Get Out, Boots Riley wrote Sorry To Bother You several years ago, but, ironically, both films are more relevant now more than ever before. I could go on and on about how important both of these films are to the environment that we Americans are living in today, but I’d rather have you see for yourself and discuss later. If you love weird, artistic indie films, and want to support them like I do, or if you want to feel inspired, or if you want to make light and laughter of the oftentimes-surreal-feeling American climate in which we are currently living in today, go see Sorry To Bother You. ~