Director: Boots Riley
Writer: Boots Riley
Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, Steven Yuen
Sorry To Bother You is the antithesis of The Wolf of Wall Street. Both films are about the American Dream and how a person who claws their way to the top becomes corrupted by money.
But whereas The Wolf of Wall Street is a three hour film that revels in the pleasures of extravagant wealth and then shows a tiny sliver of contrition in the last five minutes, Sorry To Bother You is disgusted by the wealthy. It doesn’t go through the rigmarole of showing an enviable side to extreme wealth. They are straight up shown to be morally bankrupt, awful and irredeemable people who are vacuous, racist and devoid of humanity.
Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out, Selma, Atlanta) plays Cassius Green, a down and out nobody who lives in his Uncles garage and is in desperate need of a job. He forges his accomplishments on his CV and conjures up a fake trophy as he goes to a job interview as a telemarketer. Very quickly his deception is uncovered but the interviewer states bluntly that there are no discernible skills required to be a telemarketer but the gumption he showed with his fake resume suggests a salesmanship that might make him suited for the (commission only) job.
When he starts out, Cassius is dreadful at the job. It’s only when one of the old timers (Danny Glover), tells him to use an Aspirational White Voice does he find success. Cassius starts to make bank and soon his supervisor tells him he might get a big promotion and become a Power Caller.
While this is going on, Cassius’ girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) and his new friends in the call centre begin to rally for better pay and working conditions. They organize a strike and begin to unionize. You can see where this is going. Cassuis becomes torn between his newfound success as a telemarketer and standing by his friends who are struggling to make ends meet.
Sorry To Bother You has the trappings of a conventional film about working class Americans in the first two acts. It’s funny, engaging and is a timely film reflecting the reality of many Americans today. In the final act however, the film takes a nightmarish twist and becomes something else entirely.
I imagine the third act could be rather polarizing with audiences – it is completely bonkers – but I found myself going along with it and enjoying it for its sheer unabashed lunacy.
Although it hasn’t made the splash that some other independent films of this ilk have made, I can see Sorry To Bother You becoming something of a cult classic. It has an exceptional cast of people who are doing amazing things in film and television (Stanfield, Thompson, Yuen) and I think the subject it explores will only become more relevant as time passes. I admire how fearless and outspoken Sorry To Bother You is.