Movie #181 2020: Sorry to Bother You (2018)

What an absolute oddity of a movie.

Sorry to Bother You takes us to the life of young, black telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), who is struggling to keep up with the expenses of general living in Oakland with his girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson). After a short time, Cassius realises that using his ‘white voice’ on the phone will make him more successful in his job. However, it’s not long after he is promoted that he comes to the shocking realisation of what the company is really selling.

Pitching this movie to a production company can’t have been an easy feat. A movie about telemarketing? Doesn’t exactly sound thrilling, does it? The first half could have been extremely boring what with such a boring subject matter, but the editing was so exciting and fresh that it ended up being the better half of the movie. There are sequences in which Cassius’ work desk is literally dropped into the houses of the person he is calling, which provides the viewer with not only some humour, but also some physical, visual effects that keep the movie’s mosaic of shots super exciting.

Plot-wise, it all gets a little bit too silly at the horse people point (no, that’s not a typo), but there’s an underlying commentary on the ethics of big corporations, capitalism and the 1% here which is cool to see. Not enough movies tackle such subject unless they’re based on true life (The Big Short, Bombshell etc), so this fictionalised, absurd fantasy version of such issues is a really interesting and original take.

Lakeith Stanfield is as excellent as he always seems to be, and this cast is literally the most perfect one I’ve ever seen. There’s some comedic prowess via Jermaine Fowler, a little bit of veteran wisdom in Danny Glover, and the token girlfriend character played by Tessa Thompson, who is a pretty solid choice for pretty much the only female character in the entire movie. To say this is Boots Riley‘s first full length directorial feature is impressive too; the direction here is something extremely unique and it’s really exciting to see new, diverse directors coming to the fore.

One little niggle I had here was with the dubbing of the ‘white person’ voices. There’s just something off with it – perhaps the synchronisation of it all – that made it really weird and a little distracting, but I’m sure there’s some sort of purpose that it was supposed to serve. Maybe the idea that anyone can be anyone online or over the phone? Who knows, except for Riley himself. I can’t imagine they did a bad job on purpose there.

Overall, this is a really odd, quirky little movie. If you can read between the lines here, it’s a really decent feature, so get your thinking caps on and give it a go!

Sorry To Bother You is available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.

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