Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You is one of the most original and delightfully clever films in years. It’s a searing satire with unflinchingly good performances and an energy and bouts of narrative bravery that make the whole affair unforgettable. Some will balk at the surrealism, some may miss the importance of what Riley is saying about race and class (the nuances between the more overt statements, at least,) but no-one could possibly come away from this film without an appreciation the assured hand behind his directorial debut.
The Production: 4/5
“Cash, I’m gonna make you a proposal. I can see that you’d wanna say no, but I wouldn’t do that before you see what I’m offering you.”
Cassius ‘Cash’ Green needs a job. Applying for a position with a telemarketing firm, he struggles to make an impact. When he gets some sage advice from a fellow telemarketer-a magical secret or sorts-his fortunes change and he begins a stratospheric rise in the ranks of the company, and enjoys an unprecedented ascendency into the mysterious power machine behind the call center. What he gives up to achieve success imperils his relationships and begins to question what he sacrificed to ‘make it.’
Sorry to Bother You is a bold film, an effective, eclectic, unendingly entertaining and meaningful statement of a film. It’s clearly a treatise on the importance of worker’s rights and the complex politics of being black in America, with commentary on code-switching, the soullessness of greed, and the challenge of becoming successful without losing one’s soul (and any decent person who works in corporate America can appreciate that struggle). With bold and subversive commentary on the struggle of being black in the power structure, and the tightrope and peril of assimilation, there’s a lot to digest even as the film begins its exploration of bigger paradigms with a unique style. Its off-the-wall moments invoke, for me, just a little of Monty Python’s ‘left-field’ within a more structured narrative arc, and it is fun and earnest.
There’s a surrealist vein running throughout, showing itself in bursts that bring the film a delighting sense and is head-scratching enough to bring a smile and have you sit up closer to see where on earth the movie could possibly be going. That kind of surprise, always grounded in this slightly adjusted real-world, with authentic characters and conversations (mostly), make this film stand all the way out from the crowd. Boots Riley proves himself with this maiden directorial effort that he’s a voice with a vision to watch out for.
And what a cast. Lakeith Stanfield is perfectly suited for Cassius Green that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role (and he reportedly took the role at the recommendation of his Atlanta co-star, Donald Glover, who had to back out due to Solo reshoots). He brings a curiosity and vulnerability to ‘Cash’ that makes you feel for his hustle and worry for his soul when he loses sight of his true character. The blindingly good Tessa Thompson as Detroit, Cash’s understanding artist girlfriend, is impeccable. An actress of such range and skill, Thompson, it seems, can do or become anyone. Armie Hammer turns in a terrific performance as the unscrupulous Steve Lift, selling a bizarre modern day slavery as a benefit to humanity, and supporting players like Jermaine Fowler’s Salvador, Omari Hardwick’s Mr. _____, Terry Crews’ Sergio, Steven Yeun’s Squeeze, and Danny Glover’s Langston, are all delightfully good.
Rapper and activist Boot’s Riley made his directorial and screenwriting debut with Sorry to Bother You, and my goodness, what a debut. There’s a scrappy quality, perhaps the trademark of a debut, which at times feels purposeful and artistically important to the film’s aesthetic and tone. There’s an assuredness in Riley’s exploration of his ideas of working class power and the fight against unrepentant capitalist greed (or capitalism disabused of morality). What we have, as we contend with the ideas and the bursts of bizarre, is a fantastic mix of the surreal with the painfully real, and the funny with the genuinely relatable. It all effortlessly explores culturally relevant conversation with a surprising blend of absurdism and statement-making. It won’t resonate with everyone, but for those that it does, it will be an unforgettable experience.
3D Rating: NA
Framed at 2.39:1, Sorry to Bother You is a lovely looking Blu-ray, with deeply saturated colors. Reportedly filmed using the Alexa Mini, director of photography Doug Emmett makes intriguing use of light, bold colors in scenes contrasted with more neutral, cooler views for the wealthier strata of director Riley’s universe. There are scenes with a terrific level of detail, from skin pores to fabric and materials that are a delight. Without offering up spoilers, some of the special make-up effects work, full body, are more fake-looking (perhaps by design) in part from the high level of detail, but it doesn’t detract from the impact of what we’re seeing.
Fox delivers Sorry with an effective DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio that has it where it counts. A very good use of music throughout, the audio keeps up with good enveloping surround and deep bass at times. The dialogue is mostly found in the center channel and is well-balanced, and moments of related sound effects appear elsewhere, creating a sense of aural space and it works nicely. Busy bars, chaotic crowds, and uniting workers fill the fronts and the surrounds where needed without issue.
Special Features: 2.5/5
This film deserved a heck of a lot more special features to unpack its ideas, approaches, and accomplishments. What we have scratches the surface and begins with an almost 12 minute interview with the director where he describes the film as an “absurdist dark comedy with magical realism and science fiction inspired by the world of telemarking,” and that’s about the best summation of what this film is about. It’s a concise perspective on the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the film, ideas expanded upon in the feature commentary. Boots Riley is a man in full command of what he wants to do and say while he hustles and figures out how to do and say it.
The other special features are very short (a minute or two) and are okay diversions.
Beautiful Clutter with Director Boots Riley
Commentary with Director Boots Riley
The Cast of Sorry to Bother You
The Art of the White Voice
Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You is one of the most original and delightfully clever films in years. It’s a searing satire with unflinchingly good performances and an energy and bouts of narrative bravery that make the whole affair memorable. Some will balk at the surrealism, some may miss the importance of what Riley is saying about race and class (the nuances between the more obvious statements), but no-one could possibly come away from this film without an appreciation for Riley’s assured hand behind his directorial debut.https://smile.amazon.com/Sorry-Bother-Blu-ray-Tessa-Thompson/dp/B07DKMRLCH/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1541383688&sr=8-1&keywords=sorry+to+bother+you+blu+ray