You may have seen the trailer for the independent film Sorry To Bother You earlier this year. It stars Lakeith Stanfield who has been growing in popularity thanks to a small role in last year’s Get Out and the TV show Atlanta. The supporting cast features Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok), Arnie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name), Terry Crews (Brooklyn 99), Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead), Omari Hardwick (Power), Jermaine Fowler (Superior Donuts), and Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon), as well as the voice talents of David Cross (Arrested Development), Patton Oswalt (The Goldbergs), and Lily James (Baby Driver). That cast alone is incredibly inviting. The trailers sold the film as a story about a black man, Cassius Green, who takes a job at a telemarketing service. He uses his “white voice” to become a “power caller,” rising within the ranks of the company and discovering more than what he anticipated. But this film is so much more than that.
It’s difficult to talk about Sorry To Bother You without giving away too may details of the film, and this is the type of film that you want to enter into knowing as little as possible. Writer-Director Boots Riley has without a doubt made one of the best films of the year, a film that will continue to be dissected by cinephiles and scholars. It’s full of metaphors and allegories and can go from being insanely hilarious, to intimidatingly dark. It’s complete satire, yet completely serious. It is intelligent, funny, inspiring, mind-blowing material.
The film feels like a love child of Michel Gondry and Stanley Kubrick – in the best ways possible. It’s set in an alternate version of Compton, and as the movie goes on, the simple story of a man trying to get his life together explodes into a surreal universe that is beyond expectations. The details of the film as it moves along, and the story becomes more insane, are incredible. The attention to detail is apparent in every part of the film. The fact that the film can end with one of the most mind-blowing, ridiculous final scenes (that still makes sense in the world of the film) is a testament to how well-made this cinematic masterpiece is.
Sorry To Bother You isn’t a simple film. It’s not just about a guy trying to get his life together, it’s about every aspect of the world we live in here in America. It’s about capitalism, the injustices within our government and prison system, identity, racial tensions and race relations; it’s about the disenfranchised. It’s about the powerful businessmen in this country being able to do horrific things without repercussions. It’s a love story. It’s about the values you choose to adhere to when everything else is falling apart. It’s about everything that is the human condition and the lives we live.
On top of all the insanity, satire, metaphors, and allegories are some amazing performances. I honestly wasn’t sure how the performances of Lakeith Stanfield and Omari Hardwick would play at first, given that both of them use their “white voices” throughout the film, but there are some Oscar caliber performances by both men in this film. There are moments where the film will rip your heart out for Cassius. There are moments where you will question the humanity of Hardwick’s Mr. _____. (And yes, that is his name.) Another insane aspect of the film is that the character’s name is bleeped out throughout. But it works, and it works amidst some truly incredibly acting and directing that should be studied for years to come.
There are some great films that have already been released this year. There are some films coming out later this year that I’m sure will be amazing. But there is no other film that I could see possibly outdoing Sorry To Bother You. This film should be nominated for and win every award it can. It should be shown, taught, and studied in every film course. Boots Riley is a visionary, and even though this is his first film, I am willing to list him as one of my all-time favorite directors. Whenever he releases another film, I will be first in line to buy tickets, and I will bring everyone that I can with me.