"...extremely strong and original for at least two thirds of its duration."

A Major Film Maker Arises

(081018) “Sorry to Bother You” is a highly inventive and hilarious dystopian social satire that sends up racism within capitalism. It brings up some of the same race related issues as “Get Out” but it has a much more of a comedic tone.

The film has a spontaneous; made-up-as –it-goes-along-feel similar to early Spike Lee films. It is if the director took some characters and situations like the ones in Do the Right thing and he deposited them into a surreal Charlie Kaufman ("Adaptation" or "Being John Malkovich") type script. “Sorry to Bother You” was written and directed by a promising and talented underground hip-hop artist named Boots Riley alias Raymond Lawrence Riley. He is also the lead singer in the coup and street sweeper social club. Riley has not had wide mainstream success with the social commentary in his songs but hopefully this film will bring him a wider audience.

The rapper/actor, Lakeith Lee Stanfield (from "Get Out") is marvelous in the role of Cassius Green (the last name suggests his obsession with money) is an impoverished three-time loser and antihero. He cannot make love to his girlfriend because the door of the garage he lives in keeps going up, and his neighbors can look in. In addition, when he stops to pay for gas, he is embarrassed because he can only afford to put in forty-six cents. His landlord/relative (played by Danny Glover) gave him a car and he is flexible when accepting rent, but Cassius still has not been able to pay him in months. The landlord is also in danger of losing the property because he is behind on payments.

Green flubs an interview because he is caught lying about a reference, but he is hired anyway. It seems like his ship has come in when he gets a job at a telemarketing place. At the company, he rises quicker than his peers do because he is better able to imitate a white voice. Paton Oswald does the white voice in much of the movie, and it was supposedly partially inspired by Fox News' Sean Hannity. The situation reminded me of the poem, “We Wear the Mask,” which includes the line: “We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,” because it suggest that African Americans need to hide their true selves and hide their cultural identity to successfully ride in white dominated society.

After he gets a promotion, he has to sell corporate slaves to interested corporate parties on the phone. Riley has said that this element was inspired by an Onion Article in a recent Democracy Now! The title comes from the phrase that many telemarketers use to open their conversation with the people they harass on the phone. The film uses on an unusual device in which the telemarketer literally materializes in the house of the person he or she is bothering.

Tessa Thompson (Thor Ragnarok) is also fine and a bit hard to recognize in the role of Detroit, his visual artist girlfriend who acts as his moral conscience through the film. Her character is very active in the movement to unionize her job and when her boyfriend rises in his job without helping his peers, she sees him as a sellout. She always wears giant earrings and has a provocative fashion style. In one of her best scenes she recites a politically charged spoken word piece with fake hands around her private parts (parodying the infamous Janet Jackson Rolling Stone cover) while audience members pelt her with fruit.

Unfortunately, after all this great buildup, the films sputters out in the conclusion and goes for cheap and obvious laughs. Despite the unsatisfactory ending, “Sorry to Bother You” is extremely strong and original for at least two thirds of its duration. Once he gets a little more experience and hones his craft, Riley has the potential to be a major filmmaker

Directed/Written by:  Boots Riley
Starring:   Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler
Released:  071318
Length: 105 minutes
Rating:   Rated R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use

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SORRY TO BOTHER YOU  ©  2018 Cinereach
Review © 2018 Alternate Reality, Inc.