LFF 2018: Sorry to Bother You (2018) Film Review
There are so many words that can describe Sorry to Bother You. Some could include ‘surreal’, trippy’ and ‘crazy’. But the truth is that the film treads the line between satire and absurdist.
Looking for easy money to pay his rent, African-American Cassius Green reluctantly gets a job as a telemarketer. When he struggles to ‘connect’ with his callers, veteran (Danny Glover) tells him to use his ‘white’ voice. His new accent proves to be a success, transforming Cassius into a ‘power caller’ and a shortcut up the corporate ladder. While his former colleagues start to rebel against the company, Cassius inadvertently uncovers a conspiracy from one of his biggest clients, so he has to choose between his job and his friends.
In his directorial debut, Boots Riley gives his unique rebellious take on themes such as free labour, corporate policies and capitalism. There is WorryFree, a company who badly disguises ill intentions with empty promises; an endearing African-American hero who has to (vocally) become white to be a success; and an incredulous scandal that pushes the already insane narrative onto another level.
Played by Lakeith Stanfield, Cassius finds his voice (literally) in telemarketing but his success causes him to lose focus and loyalty in favour of power. The fact he needs to use a white voice gives the impression he won’t be taken seriously in the real world – a sentiment that comes true towards the third act of the film.
This irony doesn’t go unnoticed among the supporting characters. Cassius’s outspoken girlfriend Detroit (an underused Tessa Thompson) makes a point of retaining her own personality and his colleague Squeeze (Steven Yuen) tries to form a union to ensure increased salaries. However, despite their antagonist actions, they are essentially dismissed- essentially making them redundant, along with other cast members such as Glover, Terry Crews and Omari Hardwick.
Despite its crazy premise, Sorry to Bother You offers unexpectedly hilarious performances. Armie Hammer is brilliant as WorryFree CEO Steve List, whose visions of future and grandeur cloud all comprehension in favour of money. David Cross also provides an entertaining performance as Cassius’ white voice, as his perkiness and swagger offer a brilliant spin to an otherwise controversial plot element.
Combining science-fiction, comedy and politics amid the dull world of telemarketing, Sorry to Bother You is chaotic, creative and needs to be seen to be believed.
Sorry to Bother You is out in UK cinemas on 7 December.
Director: Boots Riley
Stars: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, Armie Hammer, David Cross, Danny Glover, Steven Yuen
Runtime: 111 minutes