Sorry to Bother You is a hilariously weird, culturally charged movie about a young black man caught between activism and consumerism. If you’re suffering from superhero fatigue or in the mood to watch a movie with substance, Sorry to Bother You is the movie to see this weekend.
Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is an unemployed twenty-something Oakland native. Cassius and his artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) are living in his uncle’s garage. Late on rent and feeling purposeless, Cassius takes a job at a telemarketing firm. There he befriends Squeeze (Steven Yeun), a charming activist looking to unionize and Langston (Donald Glover), an older gentleman that possesses the secret to success as a professional product pusher. After witnessing failed call after call, Langston offers up his secret to Cassius—”use your white voice.” Upon changing his voice, Cassius becomes the most successful telemarketer and garners attention from Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), mogul and creator of Worry Free Living, a movement that advertises slave labor to the masses. Ultimately, Cassius’ newfound success results in him alienating those fighting against injustices while embracing a lifestyle that affords him the luxury to look away while his loved ones are being mistreated.
Boots Riley, who wrote and directed the movie, uses his strange humor to bring to light some dark realities about our everyday lives. For instance, the #1 television show in Riley’s alternate reality encourages people to defile fellow contestants while a live audience looks on with eagerness. In a later scene, a disturbing truth is revealed to the public. Instead of being mortified and calling for change, the public champions the revelation. These scenes, which are laced with humor, are still tough to watch because there’s so much truth to what Riley is saying. Too many of us, myself included sometimes, are too quick to accept what we’re seeing because it’s easier to turn off your brain versus taking action.
The performances in Sorry to Bother You are excellent, specifically Armie Hammer’s Steve Lift. When Cassius meets Lift in person he’s amiable enough, offering Cassius all the cocaine and women he could ever want. However, as Cassius spends more time with Lift, he realizes how unhinged and delusional Lift really is. Hammer does a phenomenal job of slowly revealing Lift’s diabolical plan.
Sorry to Bother You is intentionally chaotic and unpredictable, which is why I would suggest withholding judgment until the very last scene. It’s the kind of movie meant to stir the pot, and in today’s world, that’s not a bad thing.