Film Review – Sorry to Bother You (2018)
You’ve heard the cries from moviegoers everywhere in recent years: “We want something original!” “Stop giving us the same thing over and over again!” Well, director Boots Riley hears those distant cries, offering his sympathies to those that want something that can be categorized as ‘original.’ Enter Sorry to Bother You, a visceral assault on the senses that is truly bizarre…and it works quite wonderfully if you ask me.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Boots Riley
Written By: Boots Riley
Down on his luck, Cassius Green (Stanfield) desperately needs a job, which inevitably leads him to work in telemarketing. After being fairly unsuccessful at the start, Cassius learns a great tip: use a white voice when on the phone with a client.
Amazingly, once Cassius starts throwing his voice, he becomes incredibly successful, so much so that the higher-ups in the company start to take notice. But while his girlfriend (Thompson) and others that work at the company would rather fight for their rights as workers, Cassius earns serious success…but it might be at a serious cost.
When you take screenwriting classes in school, a common teaching is to “write what you know.” Boots Riley did exactly that, pulling from his own experiences as a telemarketer in writing the script for Sorry to Bother You. It turns out that he too found success in throwing his voice when on the phone with possible buyers. Let that be a lesson to all of you in currently working in sales!
But with no way to produce his script upon finishing it in 2012, Riley made an album with his band The Coup that took the name of his movie and was also inspired by its story. Riley even published the screenplay in full as part of McSweeney’s issue 48, hoping that it would get the word out on his story.
Thankfully, Sorry to Bother You finally got its chance years later.
Actors Crank it to 11
Boots Riley has a certain no-holds-barred attitude towards the material in Sorry to Bother You. One of the ways it manifests is in each of the actors’ performances.
You know that subtlety thing that sometimes creeps its way into an actor’s performance? Well Sorry to Bother You says “f*** that, take a look at this!”
Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius Green is the straight man as insanity occurs around him, the out-of-this-world personalities that circle him trap him in a sort of lose-lose scenario which is full of absurdist comedy. Tessa Thompson walks around as the personification of a feminist punk painting, changing her piercings and outlandish, forward clothes in just about every single scene. Then there’s Armie Hammer, who walks around with the swagger of someone who just had sex for the last ten hours straight as his flowing robe flutters in the wind. Even other side characters have some of their inhibitions lessened, acting on their id in whatever way it manifests. Every actor is bordering on caricature while remaining highly specific to the plot.
Shockingly, all this energy works together. Even so, most (if not all) of the dramatic weight rests on the shoulders of Lakeith Stanfield who carries it incredibly well, even throwing in a few great bits of humor himself.
Boots Riley is Breaking All the Rules…and it’s Pretty Great
Boots, where have you been all my life?
So many directors are tapped for films because they can adequately accomplish what the studio desires out of a film. Boots Riley, however, has no interest in doing such things. He has no desire to confine himself within the standard elements of moviemaking.
No shot is boring in Sorry to Bother You. Hell, even the way that scenes end are completely different from each other — some simply cut, others fade out, some even iris out. You’ll notice little nuggets of fun in the corners of scenes and behind all the immediate action, even when what’s occurring in the center of the frame is batshit insane.
It’s all in service to what is a new-age punk film. Riley directs Sorry to Bother You like he had both middle fingers pointed at the back of the camera during filming, adding an audacious, zippy feel to a movie that’s already crazy with its content alone. Colors pop all over the screen to an almost mind-numbing degree. A lot of other directors can learn from how Riley actively shoots Sorry to Bother You. Nothing is bland. From the visuals to the music, everything is like an attack on all of your feelings…but in the best way possible.
You are NOT Prepared for Sorry To Bother You
As for the plot of Sorry to Bother You, well, that’s what is going to get people talking. While the trailer for the film alludes to some fantastical elements, the marketing sector of Annapurna Pictures kept a LOT from you. Other outlets are calling Sorry to Bother You a “sci-fi comedy,” but I’m not really sure exactly what Sorry to Bother You is. It’s nutty, gross, and even controversial — I’m sure many will leave the theater angry. You’re either totally onboard for what Sorry to Bother You has to offer, or you’ll quickly start muttering to yourself, hoping that the teenager working the projector in the theater breaks something important so that the movie conveniently stops playing.
Personally, after getting over the initial shock of what I saw, I fell in love with Sorry to Bother You. It’s a brazen, anti-establishment film that has scathing commentary on capitalism and big business. Admittedly, it’s a bit simplified in the way it tackles the subject (people are either solely focused on profit or their passion with no in-between), yet that’s sort of the point. This dark, social satire pulls upon greed and inspiration and takes each to the nth degree, hinting at a kernel of truth in society while telling a certifiably insane story that only gets more insane as the movie progresses.
Although this discussion is better suited for a spoiler-centric chat, I guarantee that many are going to find Sorry to Bother You problematic. But there’s one thing that I think we can all agree on: this movie has serious guts. It’s not afraid of what you have to say, and it doesn’t care if you think differently.
Sorry to Bother You doesn’t concern itself with decency or politeness. It has something to say, and it wants everyone to hear it. This approach isn’t going to work for many people — some will become uncomfortable rather quickly and squirm in their seats. Oddly enough, this is the intended effect of the film, it’s just a matter if it works for you personally.
Sorry to Bother You is — and this is putting it lightly — insane, weaving scathing social commentary with a visual acid trip that gets weirder and weirder by the second. Boiling it down to its most essential parts, Sorry to Bother You is the punk film that many have wanted for some time now.
Thank you for reading! What are you thoughts on Sorry to Bother You? Comment down below!
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