Sorry to Bother You - 2018
Director(s): Boots Riley
Writer(s): Boots Riley
Cinematography by: Doug Emmett
Editor(s): Terel Gibson
Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, Armie Hammer, David Cross, Patton Oswalt and Lily James
Synopsis: In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a macabre universe (IMDB).
I’ve been wrestling with the fact that I truly don’t know how to talk about this movie. It’s not that I don’t see the techniques, the performances, the satire/dark humor or the overall message of the movie, it’s that it doesn’t feel like a movie. It feels like an experience. I equate it to having woken-up from a dream that truly freaked you out. You are shaken-up and somebody asks you, what did you dream? No matter how many times you try to describe it, that person won’t feel what you felt, because it’s singular to your emotions, to your fears and to your personality. It’s your experience, and yet somehow Boots Riley made a movie about what could’ve easily been a dream he had one night and was desperately trying to share that experience with the rest of the world. So, let’s talk about it a little bit.
This will be the first time many people will hear the name Boots Riley, since he is making his debut as a director and a screenwriter. However, many will know him from his musical roots as the front man for the political hip hop band The Coup, along with his work as a producer within the industry. Others may also know him for his countless works as a political activist throughout his career. So, it isn’t really a surprise when to many that he turned in one of the most politically heavy satires Hollywood has seen in a long time. Riley swings for the fences, satirizing consumerism, classism, racism, capitalism and even Hollywood itself, all within a tight 1hr 45min runtime, that never loses steam and always makes the audience think or laugh.
Quick note: this movie is not for everyone, but everyone should see it.
The story is centered around Cassius Green, impressively played by Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta and Get Out), a down on his luck telemarketer that learns that if he wants to succeed in this world he needs to use his “white voice”. Something that catapults him to the top level of his company, where “power players” make the real money. Once he gets to that level his world starts to unravel as it’s not what he thought it would be or the life he thought he wanted. That’s the elevator pitch to what is one of the craziest movies I have seen in a long time.
Quick note: the name Cassius means hollow and Green is another word used to refer to money. Our lead ultimately gains hollow money.
A scene in this movie that perfectly summarizes it for me is when Cassius meets his friend at a bar and notices there is a VIP Room. Despite him going to this bar for years, he has never seen this room before. His friend gives him the password to get in and Cassius excitedly goes to the room. Once inside, the room is small, crowded, loud and full of people that don’t want anything to do with him. He is ignored, drinks are spilled on him and he is completely uncomfortable seeking a way out, back to the large, empty bar where his friend is waiting for him. We yearn for what we don’t have, we want to feel important, famous or powerful and in many cases we sacrifice what we hold true just to get there only to find out it’s not really something we wanted.
Quick note: there is a turn in the third act that will turn off many viewers, but if you can get over that hump the message lands beautifully.
Sorry to Bother You has mesmerizing and unique visuals that go along with a tone that blurs the line between uncomfortable social commentary and flat out hilarious dark humor. I found myself laughing alone in the theater at some very dark, twisted and awkward moments of satire that only a person so original as Riley can come up with. The acting on all fronts was incredible and the editing is so crisp that it makes me want to study editing. The story goes to places that will take you by surprise and when friends ask you what you thought of the movie, all you will be able to tell them is “go watch it”. There really hasn’t been anything like this before and I hope more comes after. Boots Riley is why I love movies.
If you like this review let me know in the comment section down below. Subscribe to my newsletter so you are always up to date with all my reviews. Also, follow me over at Twitter (@yILovemovies) or over on Facebook if you want to have a conversation about movies.