Boots Riley’s satire Sorry To Bother You is inventive, thought provoking, and tremendous fun.
Cassius Green starts a new job as a telemarketer. After not having much luck, he is given some advice that propels his career forward – to use his white voice on calls…
Writer-Director Riley takes aim at everything with Sorry To Bother You, with employment rights, corporate speak, television, viral fame amongst the targets of his ire. The prime focus, however, is capitalism. Riley skewers the system in a way that is both amusing and resonant.
The narrative takes its cue from Faustian myth, positing a young man who is tempted by the allure of wealth and power. What could have been rather a straightforward story is moulded into something far more compelling, thanks to Riley’s inventiveness. The premise of a call centre working finding success when he uses his ‘white’ voice is a strikingly honest appraisal of race and perception in America. The filmmaker satirises the system which upholds these values, whilst making a wider statement on the ills of capitalism and its effect on the working classes.
At a certain point it seems as if Sorry To Bother You is going to be a show Cassius getting deeper into the system, before providing a redemptive arc. Whilst the narrative may loosely follow a traditional pattern, the final third is anything but ordinary. The spin might be absurdist, but it works ever so well given the film’s tone.
Dialogue in the film is great at times. There is plenty to laugh at, even if the film gets serious at times. The protagonist has sufficient depth, and from the amusing interview at the beginning, he is someone for the audience to root for. Detroit is both love interest and a well crafted character in her own right. Lakeith Stanfield offers a great performance as Cassius. His delivery is on point, and reactions seem perfect. Tessa Thompson and Danny Glover standout among the supporting cast. Armie Hammer is most amusing in his caricature role.
Riley is not afraid to target the system in Sorry To Bother You. The fact that he does this in an accessible, creative, and amusing is testament to Riley’s skill as a filmmaker.
Sorry To Bother You is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.