BFI London Film Festival: Sorry to Bother You

Sorry to Bother You
Directed by Boots Riley
Starring Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Kate Berlant, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, Armie Hammer, David Cross, Patton Oswalt, Lily James, Forest Whitaker and Rosario Dawson
Screening at LFF October 11th, 12th and 14th 2018
Watch on iTunes (US)

by Joanna Orland

There is something almost cartoonish about Boots Riley’s directorial debut Sorry to Bother You. The surrealist visuals and absurdist elements give the film a bold and unique tone, while Riley’s voice clearly defines its anti-capitalist stance. The allegory is so overt it borders on ridiculous, but with an overabundance of ideas jam-packed into 90 minutes, it almost has to be to stand out. And boy, does it stand out. This film starts out crazy, but by the end, it is absolutely batshit.

The ending is actually so batshit, that it’s almost jarring. The twist is one you’ll never see coming, although it strongly supports the anti-capitalist narrative that Riley depicts throughout. It will wow you, confuse you, and leave you wondering what you just watched – for better or for worse.

Lakeith Stanfield is Cassius Green, a struggling millennial black man, living in his uncle’s garage. He manages to land a job in telemarketing, where he joins his coworkers in protests to form a union. But while his colleagues are fighting for fair pay, Cassius is raking in the commissions as the company’s most successful telemarketer; to make the sales, he uses his ‘white voice’. As everything is turned up to eleven in Sorry to Bother You, so is Cassius’ ‘white voice’, dubbed brilliantly by David Cross. The other prominent ‘white voice’ in the movie is dubbed by Patton Oswalt, cementing this film’s knack for perfect casting choices. Even Armie Hammer’s mere appearance as smarmy CEO of evil slave labor corporation WorryFree, garners laughs upon sight.

There is so much to dissect and comment on with Sorry to Bother You, but it is nearly impossible to do so without spoilers. Part of the joy of this film is how unexpected everything is, from Riley’s stylistic choices to the insane plot twists.

Sorry to Bother You may shock, may repulse or may go down in history as a major cult classic along the lines of Being John Malkovich. Time will tell, but the film certainly feels very much of the moment, politically, socially and artistically speaking.


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