“Sorry to Bother You” stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, and Armie Hammer. Released on July 6, 2018, the film is about a telemarketer who uses his white accent to gain popularity at his job.
The film features the directorial debut of Boots Riley, who is the lead vocalist of The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club. When you have a lead singer in charge of writing and directing a feature film, the final result can either be something special or a complete waste. Based on the reception it’s been getting, it’s safe for me to say that my money’s on the former. The film made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival back in January, where it received numerous amounts of praise for its bizarre concept and its talented cast of actors. Now, I’m not fooling around when I described the concept as “bizarre”. The story in this film is so unusually strange that it makes the other weird films feel like child’s play. I’ve seen a lot of films that have bizarre concepts, so this one shouldn’t be any different to me. Aside from that, does it have enough substance to convince regular moviegoers to witness this type of experience?
The story is set in an alternate version of Oakland, California, where a young man named Cassius Green (Stanfield) works as a telemarketer at the RegalView company while living with his girlfriend (Thompson) in his uncle’s (Crews) garage. After having a difficult time selling to customers, a coworker named Langston (Glover) advices Cassius to use his “white voice” in order to sell more. This leads to some successful, yet outlandish, results, including Cassius having the voice of David Cross. I would list off the rest of the crazy stuff that happened in the film, but this is something that you have to experience for yourself without spoilers. The film definitely earned its R rating for a reason. Not just because of the foul language and sexual content, but also because of how straight-up bonkers the concept is. For Riley’s first attempt at crafting a motion picture, the way it was handled was quite impressive. By providing a healthy mixture of reality and fantasy, along with a funky score by Tune-Yards and The Coup, Boots Riley was able to cleverly showcase the difficulties of the business industry, especially telemarketing, with some kooky and effective results. There were a couple of parts that felt either underwhelming or rushed, but the film’s intriguing screenplay and talented cast were able to fully immerse myself into this captivating setting. Lakeith Stanfield gave out a solid performance as Cassius. He’s been in some supporting roles for a while, so it was nice to see him take center stage in this film. Tessa Thompson was also very talented as Cassius’s girlfriend, Detroit, as well as Danny Glover and Armie Hammer as Langston and Steve Lift, respectively. The film also had some amusing amounts of humor. Not as hilarious as I thought it would be, but amusing nonetheless.
Overall, “Sorry to Bother You” is definitely strange, but it’s the type of strange that made it an enjoyable, yet thoughtful, treat. In terms of the cast, the direction, and the script, Boots Riley’s directorial debut is far from perfect, but it had enough inventive moments for me to give it a solid pass. If Riley is ready to make another project, I’ll be there to support him. If it’s playing at a theater near you, it’s worth checking out.