Daily 49er

‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

With intelligent comedy and beautiful direction, it’s a stellar debut for Boots Riley.

%22Sorry+To+Bother+You%22+is+director+Boots+Riley%27s+debut+film.+
Back to Article
Back to Article

‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

"Sorry To Bother You" is director Boots Riley's debut film.

Annapurna Pictures

"Sorry To Bother You" is director Boots Riley's debut film.

Annapurna Pictures

Annapurna Pictures

"Sorry To Bother You" is director Boots Riley's debut film.

Advertisement

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The year is 2018, in an alternate-present in which TV shows such as “I Got the S**t Kicked Out of Me” exist and gas prices continue to soar to nearly $5 a gallon. It’s also the year that one piece of advice opened a whole new world for Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield).

“You wanna make some money here? Use your white voice. And I’m not talking about Will Smith-white.”

Just like that, audiences’ jaws dropped along with Cash’s, as we all discovered the power of the white voice, where a person of color conjures up a voice reminiscent of a white man’s in order to find more success at his job.

Sorry to Bother You” is a unique and downright exhilarating satire which follows Green, a man struggling to make ends meet in an alternate-present Oakland who discovers the power of the white voice, which helps him thrive at his telemarketing job. However, this also pulls him into a conspiracy and causes rifts between Green and both his girlfriend and his friends.

The film is written and directed by Boots Riley, the lead vocalist of Oakland-based hip-hop group, The Coup. This movie marks Riley’s directorial debut and yet as the film progresses, there is not one sign of a first-time artist, but instead of an artist who’s honed his craft over years of work.

The writing combines plenty of outrageous and sharp humor which any casual filmgoer can enjoy, as well as an abundance of subtle and biting satire for those who enjoy an extra bit of subtext in their comedies.

The power of the white man’s voice is an important part of the film’s satirical nature, because once Cash dons the voice, his whole world changes for him. Once he’s stripped of his own voice and replaces it with the white voice, he becomes wildly successful, but must only speak in that voice once he gets promoted.

This power ties into the message of the film really well that in order to succeed in this world, people must act and sound white.

The message itself is touched upon in various ways throughout the film, including the fact that anyone seen in a position of power is white. It certainly adds an extra bite as we witness not only Cash and Detroit’s view of the world, but also Riley’s as the director.

While our modern society has certainly seen people of color take on roles of power, Riley’s script does well to remind us who is still the majority and some of the old-fashioned ideas they have about society.

One of the more not-so-subtle yet intelligent plot points of the film is the presence of WorryFree, a company which offers a life without stress by providing free food and housing in exchange for a lifetime contract of factory work.

The company is constantly called out for its slavery-resembling practices, with WorryFree CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), letting it slip in an interview that there is a threat of harm if an employee tries to leave.

This bizarre company, which could only legally exist in this alternate-present, keeps with the film’s parable of the dangers which modern capitalism poses to people’s humanity, highlighting the fact that all it values people for is their labor.

The combination of sharp colors, spot-on lighting, solid practical effects and a fascinating claymation sequence reveal a director who knows how to create a bizarre and captivating atmosphere. The dim lighting of a nighttime riot scene exemplifies this, as the technique helps add to the shock felt toward the violence that security guards inflict against protestors.

Riley’s most interesting directorial choice is the depiction of phone calls between Cash and his customers, in which we see him and his desk awkwardly land in their houses and try to sell them various mystery products.

The audience watches as Cash tries to sell to customers as if he’s in front of them. This helps put the viewers in his head, as we feel as equally uncomfortable as he does when entering the homes of a grieving widow, a grumpy old man and a couple in the middle of having sex.

While Riley could’ve taken the typical split-screen route during these calls, throwing Cash next to the customer and putting his white voice to the test is an interesting twist and fun to watch.

Riley and The Coup team up with art pop group, Tune-Yards to deliver a slick and eclectic musical score that matches the tone and style of the film. The tone of the film itself mostly leans toward comedy, but when it chooses to veer into dramatic and science-fiction elements, it doesn’t feel out of place.

The stylish direction and comedy are elevated further thanks to the great performances from its ensemble cast, especially a stellar lead performance from Stanfield, who has made a name for himself playing a number of supporting performances in shows and movies.

The 26-year-old actor brilliantly portrays Cash’s desire to succeed as he struggles with the negative consequences that come with the true nature of his company’s profits.

While the direction, acting and comedy are all wonderful, the true highlight of the film is its shocking, unexpected and ingenious ending.

What appears to be a natural conclusion suddenly dashes into a twist in the mid-credits scene, which is left open to interpretation   leaving the audience to determine whether to hold out hope or accept an unhappy ending.

“Sorry to Bother You” is a brilliant, hilarious and poignant satire that highlights Stanfield’s talents as both a comedic and dramatic performer, as well as Riley’s gift as a writer and director.

Riley also delivers some of the most stylish direction featured in this decade’s independent film. With its early critical and financial success, the first-time director will follow in the footsteps of “Get Out,” last year’s smash directorial debut, toward becoming a great new voice in film.

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




*

Navigate Left
  • ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

    Arts & Life

    Why can’t we just have fun at the movies?

  • ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

    Arts & Life

    ‘Nine’ — more than just a number

  • ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

    Arts & Life

    In Photos: ‘Nine’ exhibit hosts a diverse range of artistic viewpoints

  • ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

    Arts & Life

    Film director works toward filling the frame with documentary ‘Half the Picture’

  • ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

    Arts & Life

    The one with the $100 million deal

  • ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

    Arts & Life

    Take a load off before passing classes

  • ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

    Arts & Life

    Students share their first-year experiences at Long Beach State

  • ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

    Arts & Life

    Snack now, peel better later

  • ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

    Arts & Life

    The ultimate finals playlist

  • ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a bizarre and freshly unique satire

    Arts & Life

    Conscious Collection brings artists of marginalized groups together

Navigate Right