Comedy Fantasy

Review: ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a Weird, Wild Call to Rebellion

July 13, 2018Ferdosa Abdi

Boots Riley's directorial debut is a bold and bizarre take on an extremely common issue found in the Black community, and it goes so much deeper. The film follows Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius 'Cash' Green, a bright young Black man trying to find a living to support himself and his girlfriend, Detroit, played by the incomparable Tessa Thompson. Cash must learn the hard way that finding economic stability, which is already difficult to find, will come at a cost.

Many in the Black community will immediately recognize the situations and characters in Cash's life. Riley does not once shy away from portraying this life honestly, and, yes, the absurdity of some of these situations rings true. Cash finds a job as a telemarketer and quickly realizes something isn't quite right when he is unable to keep customers on the line. Thanks to his a coworker (Danny Glover), Cash adopts the "white voice," which is more than just a voice; it is a persona or attitude that Black people, unfortunately, have had to adopt to succeed in the workforce. It needs no reiteration that — thanks to racism, prejudice and discrimination — people of color have to jump through hoops to get half the chances their white counterparts get. At the core of Riley's film, this is what he is conveying to the audience. The world is unfair and sometimes cruel to people of color.

The cast do an excellent job of keeping up with Riley's unusual vision, and much is owed to costume designer Deirdra Elizabeth Govan as well, for adding to the story and characters. Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Omari Hardwick and Armie Hammer are pros. They are able to adequately convey the seriousness of this movie and still allow themselves to get lost in the insanity of it all. This is especially true of Stanfield, who proves yet again what a talent he is, giving a full-bodied performance and showcasing the shift in Cash's life when he is at his lowest versus when he has "succeeded."

Riley's script asks a lot of Stanfield, and the actor (best known for his roles in Get Out and Atlanta) does his utmost best to nail every single thing that is required of him. His most invaluable assets by far, though, are his eyes, as they truly capture your attention as they convey every emotion Cash is feeling — especially the absolute horror that is revealed to him at the end of the second act. Suffice to say, this film gives the word "wild" a whole new meaning.

Ultimately, however, for as far as Riley takes his story there is a logical through line that gets to the point he has to make. Rebel. Rebel against the perceptions, rebel against the injustice, rebel against what's normal or accepted. And in his own way, Riley is rebelling against the typical conventions of topical filmmaking. He is telling us this story in his own way, with a touch of social satire, comedy, sci-fi, mystery and surrealism, making Sorry to Bother You a movie everyone should experience for themselves.

Sorry to Bother You releases July 13th, 2018 from eOne Films. The film has an MPAA rating of R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use. Its runtime is 1 hr. 45 min.

You May Also Like