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Sorry to Bother You – Movie Review

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Sorry to Bother You – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

It’s always exciting to see the arrival of a new director, especially one who can bring a fresh voice to the cinematic landscape. In making his feature directing debut, rapper Boots Riley has created an original and wild film that cannot be defined by a specific genre. He takes us on an unpredictable journey, which will delight some and confound others. Riley also brings an energetic visual style that makes Sorry to Bother You undoubtedly the vision of one man. Once it seems like the main joke has run its course, the film then turns around and enlivens the proceedings in the most oddball story directions imaginable. Sorry to Bother You will definitely give one’s brain a work-out many days after first watching it.

At the start, it seems Riley is satirizing the dreary job that is telemarketing as Lakeith Stanfield’s Cassius Green attempts to succeed at his new employment. Riley comes up with a clever and funny cinematic device to showcase the disruptions telemarketers cause on our daily lives and doesn’t shy away from poking fun at the white collar American office culture. Eventually, he begins peeling away and revealing more about what he’s seeking to explore in our modern society with white privilege eventually taking centre stage. The usage of David Cross as Cassius’s “white voice” is done to humourous effect, while also expanding on this theme.

Riley’s screenplay gives Cassius a proper and fully developed arc as he uses his “white voice” to rise up in the business world and issues of class enter the picture. Stanfield delivers a great performance as Cassius navigating these strange new worlds he enters. Tessa Thompson, meanwhile, continues to prove herself as an actress worthy of our attention by playing Cassius’s performance artist girlfriend. They are a believable couple and the film gives the relationship plenty of obstacles befitting the characters. Eventually, the main joke with the voice starts to run its course and one begins to wonder what else Riley has up his sleeve. It’s at that point the movie drops an incredible bombshell that takes the film in an unexpected and delightfully crazy direction.

There is a fearlessness in Sorry to Bother You that maybe only a young, upstart director like Boots Riley could have pulled off. The film as a whole brings to mind the early works of Spike Lee with its sharp commentary on the race culture in America, told in an manner that plays with narrative and filmmaking conventions. The film is occasionally funny and pointed, but also serious when it needs to be. The use of colour, as photographed by Doug Emmett, further highlights the divide Riley seeks to show between the various corporate levels of this telemarketing company. Riley even succeeds at putting his own stamp on the city of Oakland.

Sorry to Bother You is the shot in the arm that cinema could always use every once in a while. It takes some curious, but nonetheless creative, directions to get to the ultimate point it wants to make. Boots Riley is not afraid of shooting for the stars and alienating some audiences with both the messages and the imagery presented in the film. He’s a director who already has a clear cinematic vision and it will be exciting to see him play around with the medium in later films. He has an eye for how to use the camera and also directing his actors. Every year brings new directors into the limelight and Riley represents a bold and talented filmmaker with a bright future ahead.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison