by Johnny De Jesus
The Movie Guys
Films like Sorry to Bother You give me hope. It’s another film along the lines of films like Dear White People, Dope, Tangerine, Get Out and the TV series Atlanta, they all bring something fresh and exciting to the table and don’t rely on usual tropes. They all tell a unique story from the point of view of a person of color without limiting it to a certain audience; each bringing something different to the table to standout from everything else. But weirdness and all, Sorry to Bother You is a lot more original than the constant barrage of remakes, sequels and live action reboots we’ve been plagued with. We need fresh blood, fresh films and hopefully this is the first in a string of them.
Sorry to Bother You tells the story of Cassius “Cash” Green, played by Lakeith Stanfield, who basically just wants to better himself, help his struggling family, and be happy with his artistic girlfriend, Detroit, played wonderfully by Tessa Thompson. Both actors are on top of their game and seem to be picking great part after great part. Cash takes a job as a telemarketer and at first, he’s terrible at it, until an older coworker, played by Danny Glover, gives him a secret to success: use that inner white voice. His inner white voice is voiced perfectly by David Cross and as silly as this may sound, it works and he starts to hop his way up the ladder and slowly begins to change. It gets to a point where Cassius has to make a major decision that will affect everything. The supporting cast is really great, Jermaine Fowler plays Cash’s best friend Salvador and has a lot of funny moments, including a funny tense argument. Steven Yeun plays a coworker who starts a strike at the telemarketing company and also has a thing for Detroit.
Even though it wears its originality on its sleeve, Sorry to Bother You does harken back to other films, it reminded me of a few, such as Wrong, Putney Swope, and even Pootie Tang. It’s more honed-in than those without going off the rails, unless you count the third act, which might make or break some viewers. Any of those films would be great as a double feature. The film never says it takes place in the future but it definitely seems like it could be in some alternate version of present time America.
Like Wrong, there are these weird things going on in the background of Cassius’ story that no one really addresses – overly extreme poverty, managers with very questionable tattoos, strange office stuff, it just adds to the feel and style. There’s even a claymation nod to Michel Gondry. No one questions when Cash goes to put forty for gas, and he gives the attendant forty cents and no one really says anything about his car being one of the worst working cars I’ve seen on film in awhile, with manual wiper blades that they control with string from inside the car. The soundtrack by Tune-Yards really adds to the atmosphere of it all, either dramatic or just peculiar background noise.
This is very much a film of now, covering corrupt politicians and corporations, people famous for doing mean or stupid things, terrible popular TV shows, racial problems of the country, it’s nice to see something that covers so much that can still be funny and not beat you over the head with it all. There’s a lot of focus on identity and integrity and what you would give up to move ahead in the world. One of the most cringe worthy scenes comes from a bunch of rich white people peer-pressuring Cash into rapping for them when he tells them multiple times he doesn’t rap. Hopefully writer/director Boots Riley will continue to make great films in the future, sooner than later. This film is his debut, and there’s no way to tell where he may go next. Despite this being his first film, he really showed that he had a vision for the script and executed it really well, something that not too many first-time filmmakers can say they did right out of the gate. Sorry to Bother You might be a little too weird for those used to typical studio cranked out films, but they should take the chance on it, it’s not like it has subtitles.
Directed by: Boots Riley
Release Date: July 13, 2018
Run Time: 111 Minutes
Distributor: Annapurna Pictures