Written and directed by Boots Riley
I worry that people will assume that this very pointed comedy is nothing but a Get Out rip-off. Both movies combine humor, horror, and social commentary, and were made by an African-American neophyte director with a decidedly black point of view.
But if you know anything about how long it takes to conceive, write, finance, prepare, shoot, edit, mix, and advertise a motion picture, you know that writer/director Boots Riley could not possibly have conceived Sorry to Bother You after Jordan Peele’s horror comedy became a hit. It’s possible that Get Out’s success helped Riley find finance and/or distribution, and if so, that’s a good thing.
Sorry to Bother You is, at times, hysterically funny, and in its commentary on wealth and poverty, occasionally shocking. It’s almost always entertaining.
Most of the main characters are African American, but the movie is more about class than race. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to separate that distinction in America.
Riley occasionally shows us commercials for what seems to be a very strange and frightening employment agency. People sign away their freedom for the security of living in barracks and working 14 hours a day without pay. Curiously, the people in these commercials are all white.
Okay, a little bit about the plot:
Desperate for money, Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) gets a job as a telemarketer, calling people to sell them crap. Riley comically films these calls as if Cassius is dropping into the people’s homes. He’s lousy at first, until a co-worker (Danny Glover) advises he use his “white voice.” That little change puts him on the road to success.
Consider that name: Cassius Green. It suggests both Mohammad Ali and money.
Just as he gets his promotion, his co-workers go on strike. Suddenly he’s daily crossing a picket line that includes close friends and even his girlfriend. He will have to make a choice between financial comfort and doing what’s right.
Tessa Thompson gives a wonderful performance as Cassius’ artistically-inclined girlfriend. She’s smart, talented, ethical, and wears her politic views on her homemade clothes and jewelry. She’s also very into sex. Thompson and Stanfield have one of cinema’s funniest interrupted-sex scenes.
At 107 minutes, Sorry to Bother You occasionally drags. The story is loose and leaves lost threads around. For instance, a white woman executive makes it clear that she wants to sleep with Cassius, then you never see her again. But these are minor flaws compared to so much of the movie.
Riley has created a very dark view of current American society. Poor people will do anything to keep a roof over their heads, including selling themselves into slavery. Others will allow themselves to be beat up on television. And the government is always on the side of the wealthy.
Sorry to Bother You is not science fiction.