‘Sorry to Bother You’ is the breakout comedy written and directed by Boots Riley, starring Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson. The story follows Cassius Green played by Stanfield, who is sort of wandering through his life looking for his place, his overall purpose, and the meaning to it all. He gets a job as a telemarketer to pay the bills, which proves to be an unsuccessful decision at first. Until he learns of a secret that quickly propels him to wealth and success. While at the same time stripping him of control over his own identity and the person he once was.
I had an absolute blast watching this movie and it had me thinking days after watching. Which is something I consider to be a major positive with a film. But that honestly was not what I was expecting when I went in. The trailers showed shades of a quirky, off-beat comedy, with elements of social commentary. All of which it certainly delivered. However, that was only a fraction of the journey that this film takes you on. This was a wildly inventive story-line that kept me constantly guessing. It also showed no hesitation in going the direction it wanted to deliver its messages.
Something that will be divisive to audiences. I feel your ability to be open to whatever path a story will take you on is key to enjoying this tone of story delivery. You will need to be able to think outside-of-the-box. This film requires you to correlate many metaphors through their artistic delivery for what they are. Regardless of your opinion, or your ability to connect with, or relate to the subject matter. So an open-mind will without question enable you to get the most substance from the material and how it progresses.
Now like many of you I watch a ton of movies, so for that aspect the creativity and unorthodox progression of events to me was a breath of fresh air. From a simple comedic aspect, the film is a solid hit. The dialogue is clever and nicely-timed to land some genuine laughs. The story-line creates many comical scenarios that land effectively because they are grounded, and based around common situations any person who has lived paycheck-to-paycheck can relate to.
But again, that is only one of the several elements this movie lays out. The story dives into many layers of different ideas, and societal concepts that provide enough social commentary for a handful of movies. The story hits on the notion of using what the film calls a ‘white voice’ the sound of a proud man, confident, with his bills paid. Once the main character discovers his ‘white voice’ his life changes, but not only for the better. He begins to see a capitalist system that is subconsciously taking over him and many others. Stripping him of his beliefs, his control, and basically the power over controlling his own identity, and the beliefs he once felt firmly about.
The film tackles slavery and the notion of a growing capitalistic society through a fictional corporation called WorryFree. With the signing of a lifetime contract; meals, housing, and employment is all covered forever. But it comes at the cost of your own free thinking, and your ability to make decisions, which basically accounts for a person’s freedom. A simple cost for never having to worry about your progression through life. The story also confronts the concept employer rights in the workplace for instances like retirement plans, pensions, and healthcare. It confronts the stigma of ‘selling-out’ to succeed and how easy it is to fall to the point you lose sight of who you truly are.
These are all heavy-handed themes, but they play out in a fresh, up-beat story that is packed with energy, and eccentric satirical humor. Each scene is layered with so much substance that I was constantly on-point, diving into each of them looking for visual cues, hidden meanings, and double entendre’s. It created an engaging film experience that had me invested in what was happening. With a constant curiosity about what was coming next. The visuals, like the story-line were all extremely imaginative and well-crafted to create and immersive vibe to the film overall. From the simplicity to certain scenes, to vibrant splashes of creative editing techniques in others, Boots Riley showed a skilled eye behind the camera. Crafting an artistic vision that felt like much more skillful than coming from someone making their directorial debut.
The savvy visuals were blended perfectly with the spirited personalities of the characters. Lakeith Stanfield was fantastic in the lead and he carried the character perfectly. The story poses some moral dilemmas for him, and he captured the range of emotion of a normal guy dealing with a ton of internal turmoil effectively. Tessa Thompson was excellent as well and certainly helped carry the energy with each of her scenes. There was also a solid collection of supporting characters that all leave an imprint on the movie and help keep the pace moving with their character portrayals and the variety in their personality-types.
The movie continually increases the level of thought-provoking elements. The wild tone continually escalates as well, and while I can find appreciation in the third-act, it was a little startling with its delivery. It felt like the equivalent of taking off in a roller coaster from a sitting position, and it took a few minutes to wrap my head around. I’m extremely curious how this closing-act with sit with audiences. I do feel there was valid substance in the closing of the film, but wonder if the impact of the message will be lost a bit in the delivery with certain demographics.
I however had a great time with it. We always want something unique, and fresh. We want movies that will show effort in bringing something new to the table and Boots Riley without question does so with ‘Sorry to Bother You.’ It kept me thinking constantly. Just when I would wrap my head around one scene the next would be up and going, and I can’t wait to watch it again to see what imagery and metaphors I might have missed out on the first time.