Sorry to Bother You
Be prepared for an emotional experience that will come close to sucking the wind out of your cinematic lungs.
If my review of Sorry to Bother You was limited to one sentence, I would say with utmost confidence that you will never see a more creative, provocative film. It is a movie filled with so many twists and turns that it creates the feeling that you are on a roller coaster where you can do little more than simply raise your arms and enjoy the ride.
This is the first film directed and written by Boots Riley, and it focuses on Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a poor Oakland resident trying to find a way to make a living. Living in a converted garage with his artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) that he rents from his uncle, he takes a job as a telemarketer. From that moment this movie takes off with the same force as a Cape Canaveral rocket heading to the moon.
While Cassius follows the only rule laid down to employees, namely “Stick to the Script”, he does so without any success. This changes when Langston (a memorable Danny Glover), a colleague sitting in the next booth, informs him that he can’t have any chance of making a sale unless he uses his “white voice.” With the actor David Cross dubbing Cassius’s white voice, he hits the motherload where he quickly begins to climb the corporate ladder.
That ladder is actually a golden elevator where he is first given crazed advice from an attendant with the great name of Diana DeBauchery, a magnificent Kate Berlant in a very small role. He then falls under the guidance and control of Mr. Blank (Omari Hardwick), a completely amoral business leader whose only concern is the quickest way to make a buck.
What happens from that point on is impossible to reveal without ruining the film for all of you. Let me just say that it becomes a horror movie when the company’s founder, Steve Lift (an unforgettable Armie Hammer) reveals a diabolical chemical plan to get humans to work more effectively and cheaply. To that extent, it resembles the surprise that hit you towards the end of last year’s surprise hit Get Out.
The strength of this film centers on the challenges faced by many workers seeking financial success while simultaneously wanting to help those fellow workers struggling to survive. As his co-workers, led by Steven Yeun as Squeeze and Jermaine Fowler as Salvador, lead a work stoppage where the company uses brutal force to get its high rollers into the office building, Cassius is confronted with the choice of staying with his friends or abandoning them in favor of the golden egg that has been placed in his lap.
At the center of all of this exploding chaos is Tessa Thompson’s performance as Detroit, an artist whose love for Cassius is threatened by his apparent decision to pursue wealth rather than join the fight of workers to unionize. As demonstrated by her prior sterling performances in Dear White People (2014), Selma (2014), Creed (2015) and last year’s Thor: Ragnarok, this is an actress that brings a magnetic force to the screen. Here, wait until you see one of her first scenes where she is wearing a T-shirt that is emblazon with “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE EJACULATION.”
This film hits a lot of buttons, some of which will make you uncomfortable. It’s what makes falling in love with a nasty paramour a memorable trip.