Get set for wokeness in its weirdest form possible… you have no idea what you’re about to get into…
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
It’s near impossible to lump first time writer-director Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You into any one category. Absurdist and scathingly satirical dark comedy drama with shades of magical fantasy, sci-fi and horror might land somewhere close. What is absolutely certain is that you’re in for a weird, weird time. Probably the weirdest you’ll have with a movie in 2018.
Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) has just landed a low-level telemarketing job, which he hopes can get he and his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) out of his uncle’s garage and on the road to success. Cash quickly learns that using a “white voice” will make him more sales, and is quickly leagues ahead of his colleagues and on his way to becoming a “Power Caller” at the top end of the company. Turning his back on the union opposing this big business, he soon learns the dark and deranged plan his CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) has for his company and employees.
Inspired by Riley’s own experience as a telemarketer, Sorry To Bother You is like an acid trip through the hierarchy of employment status from bottom to top and how the powers above and below impact each other. Essentially, it’s a truly bizarre skewering of the monster that is capitalism, alongside, of course, the political climate, race and social status.
Like Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, this too largely follows a black man impersonating a white man to further his career, though tonally it’s much closer to the free-for-all communal craziness of Lee’s earlier work like Do the Right Thing. In fact, there’s a lot that Sorry to Bother You borrows from. There’s more than a hint of The Wolf of Wall Street, The Social Network, Office Space, The Lobster and, uhh… BoJack Horseman. And yet it remains radically original, thanks to its outrageous and chaotically creative take on some well-covered matters.
As the weird outsider in movies like Get Out and Death Note, it’s natural fit for Lakeith Stanfield to be the normal(ish), balanced centre in a bonkers alternate world, and here he proves himself capable of the upgrade from eccentric support to conflicted lead. His tale of rising up the ranks and moral reversal is familiar, but the relentlessly strange path it takes keeps Cash Green interesting. Particularly amusing is his white guy voice – who any fan of Arrested Development will immediately recognise as the hilarious David Cross dubbing over his speech.
It is, however, a little too weird for its own good at points. The humour is more offbeat eyebrow-raisers than actual laugh-worthy moments that again, won’t sit with everyone, and there are a few too many subplots that end up left in the dirt. But for a multi-faceted and brazenly bizarre alternative satire of the world we live in, Sorry to Bother You unquestionably stands out from the pack – for better or worse.
Sorry To Bother You is available in Australian cinemas from November 29
Image courtesy of Annapurna Pictures & Universal Pictures International