Sorry to Bother You

Sorry To Bother You

In Theatres: 
Jul 06, 2018
Running Time: 
105 minutes

The ambitiously named yet equally broke Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield ) and his artist/activist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) are living out their underemployed days in the garage of his Uncle’s (Terry Crews) Oakland home. Cassius finally lands a job as telemarketer and once his Uncle reveals that his house is about to be foreclosed on, the pressure turns up.  Struggling under the stress and trying to make sales, Cassius takes the advice of an older coworker Langston (Danny Glover) to use his “white voice”.

As Cassius begins to use his white voice (David Cross) he finds rapid success. His co-workers, including Detroit, aren’t fairing as well and have decided to strike for better wages and benefits. Cassius joins their efforts, but once a promotion as a power caller is dangled in front of him he takes it. His unquestioning embrace of American capitalism enhances his finances, but takes a toll on his personal life. The higher he climbs the further he finds himself from a morality and the people he once prized.

When Cassius meets Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), company president, we’re treated to some explorations on race, expectations, and tokenism designed to make you squirm in the truth they present. Cassius is pressured to rap and when he protests that he doesn’t know how, he’s questioned about his Oakland gangsta upbringing; a past that never existed but is projected onto him.

In the background of Cassius’ struggles are advertisements and news specials praising Worry Free, a company who employs, feeds, and houses people in exchange for a lifetime labor contract. The government debates if such a contract is legal or if it is slavery while posters of happy, smiling families pop up in the background. As Cassius grows closer to Steve, he learns of Worry Free’s true intentions.

An inventive and electric criticism on the empty promises of capitalism with a Twilight Zone twist, Sorry to Bother You is unlike any other film you’ll see this year. The film's usage of unique visuals and editing cuts while discussing such nuanced topics like the U.S. relationship with slavery, capitalism and race, and how those movements can be co-opted by the very systems they seek to critique, can make things feel scatter shot. However, director Boots Riley clearly has a vision for this distinct film.

Unfortunately, Detroit, activist and artist that she is (who serves GREAT looks) is not much more than a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. We do get to see her provocative art show tackling several of the topics within the film, however, she functions largely within her connection to Cassius as morality figure. I would have loved to have seen more of her story and her critique, especially when it concerns Cassius being unwilling to listen to her and how being a black woman can change a conversation.

Hilarious but absolutely unforgettable, Sorry To Bother You may lose some viewers in the farcical sci-fi third act.  The twist is completely unpredictable and could have easily derailed the entire film and will feel messy to some. However, as wacky as it may be it is as well handled as possible and as a fan of the surreal and absurd, I was completely enchanted.

Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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