‘Sorry to Bother You’ Movie Review: Boots Riley’s Mind-Blowingly Original Debut Is One Of 2018’s Best Films
Sorry to Bother You announces the arrival of a new vital artistic voice. With his first film, Boots Riley has already made an invaluable contribution to American cinema. A ballsy concoction that tackles code switching and the failures of capitalism, it is told with so much verve that makes it plainly unforgettable and so much fun.
Lakeith Stanfield is perfectly cast as Cassius “Cash” Green. Perpetually strung up for cash, he takes a job at a sleazy telemarketing agency. He initially struggles profoundly, but he soon starts racking up sale after sale he starts employs his “white voice,” which is quite literally the voice of a white man, provided in overdub form by David Cross. As Cash makes his way to the “upstairs” promised land of “power callers,” he is kept on the up-and-up by his conceptual artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) and a co-worker agitating for unionizing (Steven Yeun).
From this point forward, Sorry to Bother You wanders enthusiastically into the realm of sci-fi and fantasy. The specifics are best left unspoiled. But even if I were to reveal some of those details, they would still probably be breathtaking once you experience them on the screen, as the bold outrageousness is so unpredictable that it is pretty much impossible to make sense of them without seeing them in context. Suffice it to say that this section features Armie Hammer as a scary but transfixing mix of ambition and eccentricity as the head of a major conglomerate.
The closest comparison to the film’s alternate reality vision that I can think of is actually RoboCop. Riley has a decidedly similar sensibility as Paul Verhoeven regarding media satire. A humiliation-based game show entitled I Got the S#*@ Kicked Out of Me is not far off in concept from the “I’d buy that for a dollar” program, nor is the faux-utopian Worry Free Housing (in which workers forego income for guaranteed shelter) all that different from the promises of glory made to the kids in Starship Troopers.
Sorry to Bother You is not only the most original movie I have seen in about a decade, it is also the densest. So many ideas are brought to life, and remarkably all of them work. In that sense, it is a truly American movie, a motley mix of often seemingly opposing forces that come together to make a whole that is more fascinating, and certainly funkier, than the sum of its parts.
Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer, Robert Longstreet, Michael X. Sommers, Kate Berlant, David Cross, Patton Oswalt
Director: Boots Riley
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Rating: R for Graphic Nudity in Strange Situations, Plus Language and Drug Use Appropriate for a Bizarre World
Release Date: July 6, 2018 (Limited)