Run Time: 1 hr 45 min
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%/63%
Sorry To Bother You is a dark comedy/satire that tackles issues of race, social status, and corporate greed centered around the world of telemarketing written and directed by Boots Riley. This is Riley’s directorial debut and he went into it head first with no holds barred. In this ambitious film we have LaKeith Stanfield starring as Cassius Green, a broke, down on his luck 20-something that desperately needs to find a job before he is left out on the streets. He manages to secure a job at a telemarketing company and after receiving the wisdom of a veteran telemarketer, Cassius realizes that the best way to succeed is to use his “white voice” so he can rise through the ranks to becoming a Power Caller. Rounding out the cast we have Tessa Thompson (Detroit), Jermaine Fowler (Salvador), Omari Hardwick (Mr. ___), Steven Yeun (Squeeze), Terry Crews (Sergio), and Armie Hammer (Steve Lift); with a cast like this you have to wonder if Riley was able to create something thought-provoking and entertaining or was it just weird, pretentious, and boring?
First and foremost, the creativity in this film was great to see. I will forever be a fan of creators stepping outside the box and making something Hollywood has not seen before. Riley was able to make the world of telemarketing seem so much more interesting and dubious than I’m sure it really is. There was also a lot of symbolism throughout the film, even down to the names of the characters (i.e Cassius Green…Cash is Green), and many of these things are easy to miss but others are blatant. For example, there is a scene in the telemarketing office where Cassius is speaking with Langston (Danny Glover) about why “white voice” is necessary and in the background there are white employees dealing with a malfunctioning copier. For me that symbolizd how the most inconvenient thing white people have to deal with is a broken copy machine while their black counterparts and dealing with finding ways to hide their blackness just to perform their job.
I also enjoyed how relatable this movie is for so many different groups which removes that uncomfortable feeling that some politically themed movies can make you feel, with the exception of those responsible for oppression of course. It can seem a bit warped to laugh at watching Black folks having to “code switch” but in reality the idea that this is a real thing that goes on is genuinely funny and ridiculous. There are even some moments in the film where it gave me a Naked Gun type of feeling; not that it was slapstick but in the overly exaggerated comedic scenes at times. For example, during one of the workers strike rally’s Squeeze was talking about the importance of employees having proper health insurance so they can afford to go to the doctor to treat sexually transmitted diseases. The crowd’s reaction was a collective “WTF?!” and the scene was hilarious. There is a nice balance of comedy, provactiveness, and weirdness that makes you afraid because the film is crazy and all over the place yet you understand what’s happening which makes you question your own sanity!
I don’t have a lot of negative things to say about this movie, HOWEVER, one issue I had with this film was the “twist” that is revealed in the final act. I will not give any spoilers but let me just say this plot twist came from left field and really required me to suspend belief on a level that I was not comfortable with. And unfortunately while I enjoyed the symbolism in this film, it did get a bit heavy handed at times and became a distraction. There were moments when I was so engrossed in trying to figure out what Detroit’s earrings said and what they could have meant that I missed crucial dialogue happening in the scene. There’s a good way to put symbolism in a film and there’s an obnoxious way and unfortunately this film jumped that fine line one too many times.
Sorry To Bother You was very entertaining. It was funny when it needed to be, thought-provoking when it needed to be, and just down right weird when it needed to be. Boots Riley describes this film as an “absurdist dark comedy with magical realism and science fiction inspired by the world of telemarketing”, so with that being said please go into this film with an open mind because that is a necessary tool for understanding what you are watching. This Sista Gurl recommends you check out this eclectic film with friends that love movies and have a discussion about it afterwards because some shit goes down in the end that needs to be discussed with either friends or a therapist; quite frankly the first option is less expensive and much preferred.