I purposely didn’t watch the entire trailer for Sorry To Bother You. I wanted to go in blind. But now I see. A must-see.
Originality gets top billing amidst a fearless, outrageous, raw, funny, unabashed journey written and directed by Boots Riley, who leaps over the rainbow into unchartered territory like you have never seen.
When we meet the film’s protagonist Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), the only thing he’s got going for him is his girlfriend Detroit (played by the dynamic Tessa Thompson) a free-spirited sign twirler with earrings that deserve their own casting credit. “Cash” lives with Detroit in the garage of his uncle’s house, is struggling to pay rent, and after a tough work search, finally lands a job at RegalView telemarketing where the “callers are ballers” and cubicles are your cages. Failing to nail any sales, Cash starts questioning life, having an existential crisis of sorts, discovering the difficulty of connecting with people while at his job and continuously being told to stick to the script. He is at that point in his life where he is beginning to wonder if his best self is a thing of the past. It is when Danny Glover (yes, Danny Glover, who actually utters his famous “I’m too old for this shit” line in the film) tells Cash to use his “white voice” that things begin to change.
Regalview callers go on strike against corporate oppression, but just as they do, Cassius gets promoted, his “white voice” calling him to the top floor where more money, and seemingly more opportunity, awaits. His gift translates into wealth, and he gets invited to a party at the house of Steve Lyft (the delicious Armie Hammer), the CEO of a company called WorryFree which gives people free room and board for life in exchange for labor. Modern-day slavery.
Steve Lyft is a cocaine-snorting, debauchery loving, narcissistic monster who makes Cash an offer he wants to refuse… but is he able to? Without spoiling, let’s just say where Happy Days made “jumping the shark” famous, Sorry To Bother You makes “jumping the horse” a plot twist that will gallop into movie history. It is rare nowadays that a film elicits such strong reactions from the audience, which is the purpose of art in itself, and I found myself in awe of the cast and Riley’s script and direction. I hope Oscar will be too.
Sorry To Bother You is a sci-fi, comedic, horror-ish, wild ride of a satire that echoes Office Space meets Being John Malkovich and conjures up thoughts of Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino.
There are few directors who can get me to the theater on name alone, but Boots Riley just became one.
Lakeith Standfield, a standout from last year’s Get Out, proves in Sorry To Bother You that not only does he have the talent but the charisma to be a leading man. A major part of the movie hangs on the audience “liking” Cash. Even when he does something we do not agree with, we still root for him. That is Stanfield’s gift. He is a revelation.
The scene stealer is Tessa Thompson, who even has chemistry with the sign she wields. The art show scene will haunt you for Thompson’s ability to straddle the lines of steeliness and vunerability simulatenously. Even Thompson and her character’s earrings deserve their own spin-off movie. Thompson is a force to be reckoned with, and her career climb has been a beauty to behold.
Armie Hammer, fresh off his success in Call Me By Your Name, channels his golden boy charm for evil in one of his best roles yet. Being a villain suits him. I am still rooting for a Sunset Boulevard remake with him and Sharon Stone. Who knew being bad could be so good?
Sorry To Bother You is a bona fide movie of the moment. Of our time. It could not be more relevant. The film’s title comes from Cash’s own dialogue with the customers he phones while being a telemarketer, but ironically, the movie eventually arrives at the conclusion that civility is a buffer for complicity when politeness masks for cowardice. Sorry To Bother You serves as a trigger for change, a call to stand up and fight back, fearlessly tackling racism and capitalism in way I have never seen on screen before.
This film doesn’t bother but rather inspires, and no one should be sorry for that.