During the summer movie season, it’s a risk to bring out something original among a long list of sequels, remakes, and superhero films. Most likely, that film will get lost in the shuffle and be mentioned underneath the blockbusters of the season. Bay Area rapper-turned-writer/director Boots Riley made his wildly infectious science fiction comedy Sorry to Bother You a weird but wonderful exception.
(This Review is Spoiler-Free)
Sorry to Bother You is the story of Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield in his first leading role), a Oakland dude trying to get by in the modern economy. Desperate to earn more money and make a difference, he takes a job as a telemarketer who adopts a white accent in order to thrive at his new job. Once he does, “Cash” rapidly gets swept up into a conspiracy which forces him to choose between making money at the expense of his own morals or joining with his activist friends to make labor change.
Despite this film taking place in an alternative reality, the world is definitely grounded in ours. I found that I could relate to this film on a personal level as a man struggling to make it in the current economy, gathering as much money as possible to just live. “Cash” took this job to scrape enough money to live in his uncle’s garage with his performance artist girlfriend, Detroit (a beaming Tessa Thompson). Instead of getting stuck in another stagnant position, Green is given advice by his elder co-worker (Danny Glover) on unlocking potential: “If you want to make money here, you got to use your white voice.” Once he’s able to harness this magical gift, Cassius skyrockets up the ladder and ends up rubbing elbows with a deliriously hilarious Arnie Hammer, playing a party-hard CEO.
After working as a supporting character, most famously the yelling “Get out” guy from last year’s box office surprise smash Get Out, Stanfield does wonderful work in his first shot in a leading role. Boots obviously just allowed Stanfield to let loose in this role, delivering dizzy, deadpan comedic deliveries as the audience absorbs the absurdity of his no-win situation. Oddly enough, there are probably people today that go through this same struggle: between keeping-it-real black identity and a successful bougie one. The absurdity doesn’t stop there as we get to the third act (which I won’t get into for the sake of avoiding spoilers). Trust me, I’m not making this as weird as the movie actually is. I’ve got to leave a little for you readers to see the film. Sorry to Bother You is a timely social satire with big laughs and bigger ideas behind them. While these ideas might be risky, Riley has earned the benefit of the doubt to set himself apart from other comedy films that asks the tough questions about the world we live in.
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