Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Critic Consensus: Fearlessly ambitious, scathingly funny, and thoroughly original, Sorry to Bother You loudly heralds the arrival of a fresh filmmaking talent in writer-director Boots Riley.
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Critic Reviews for Sorry to Bother You
[The] critique, ultimately, is a moral reversal, one that has less to do with making the white man a stereotype than with giving the black one a sense of self.
It should throw the viewer for a loop, because it's a reflection of the insane times we live in.
Sorry to Bother You ponders the danger of trying to assimilate into the white world, but at heart it's a multiracial, proletarian call to arms.
Telemarketers as targets from which satire flows eternal were spigotted about the same time as mall cops, and that's not all this jammed-scattergun approach to comedy has in common with the terminally dopey Paul Blart.
It's a provocative, serious, ridiculous, screwy concoction about whiteface, cultural code-switching, African-American identities and twisted new forms of wage slavery, beyond previously known ethical limits.
Audience Reviews for Sorry to Bother You
There are many ways of calling a film bizarre. When it comes to independent ventures, it really can go back and forth from being accessible to a mainstream audience. With the release of this year's Sorry to Bother You, the film has a premise that may attract fans of comedy/drama, but, when this movie truly kicks into gear, it's really a toss-up whether or not it will sit right with you. For fans of the medium of film no matter how strange, Sorry to Bother You may just end up being one of the best movies of 2018 to date, as it is to myself. For all its quirks and strange twists and turns, here's why I can't recommend Sorry to Bother You enough if you're ready to explore a film that explores the weird side of cinema. Following Cassius Green (sort of set in an alternate reality to our own), he receives a job at a telemarketing company, where he discovers a new voice and is able to make a huge profit for himself. Propelling himself into greed and forcing his life to spiral into a metaphor that reflects the social issues of our daily lives, Sorry to Bother You represents the horrible side of our society while also managing to be an entertaining and eye-opening piece of filmmaking. The core premise is very easy to follow, but once the twist occurs, sending this film on a course that you'll either buy into or find too bizarre to comprehend, it's true message begins to reveal itself. This movie has one of the most surprising turns that I've been able to witness in quite some time. Not only is it visually shocking, but it also manages to be a slightly comedic aspect to the movie while also being a social commentary for the mature audiences, which is really just writer/director Boots Riley displaying his creative mind to the world. Being his directorial debut in the feature film category, I can't wait to see where his career goes next. I truly believe that he has the potential to create stories that will be loved by audiences on a yearly basis. Riley definitely has a knack for telling a great story, even in the subtlest of ways. Although I pretty much loved this film from start to finish, upon reflection I must say that the first act of this film goes suffer from pacing issues. I feel as though Sorry to Bother You is trying to set up a few elements at the beginning that may not land with some viewers, but that's only because it needs to be able to pay off in the final act, so it's acceptable. Still, I found myself enjoying the movie at first, but it took a while to really hook me. I feel that will happen with other viewers as well. That being said, when the film concludes, I do believe that viewers will look back on the movie as a whole and appreciate the first act more. For that reason, I can't say it's a true glaring error, but it is definitely worth mentioning. In the end, Sorry to Bother You mixes a few genres together to make one wacky ride of a film. There are visuals that will stun you, an over-arching story that will open your eyes to our ever-evolving society, and a quiet editing style that seamlessly takes you through the film with ease. This movie is absolutely not for everyone, especially due to the fact that the third act is very "out there," but, if you're prone to liking movies solely based on a good execution, regardless of how strange it becomes, then I can't recommend this movie enough. Sorry to Bother You is one of my favourites of 2018.
'Sorry to Bother You' is funny in places and has an entertaining story, but what really makes it a good film is its strong social commentary. A young African-American man (Lakeith Stanfield) finds that to make it as a telemarketer, he must use a 'white voice', and then as he finds success and ascends in the ranks, that he has ethical challenges. Can he ignore those still at the bottom as they try to unionize to get a living wage? Can he ignore what his company is doing to other people all over the world with its actions? And can he remain connected to his culture and true self, without sublimating it entirely? The film gives you the perspective of an African-American person trying to succeed in a capitalist system where the dominant culture is white, and makes you think. Fundamentally there seems to be a choice between struggling to make ends meet at the bottom, or to compromise oneself by working one's way to the top. Of course director (and writer) Boots Riley is giving us the extremes here, but that's what good satire does, and there is plenty of truth in this movie. There is a universal message here as well - at what point does a company do something that crosses a line, and no amount of money justifies you contributing to that? He also gets in a few jabs at the state of entertainment in America, where people revel in the misery of others. The performances are all strong, led by Stanfield, but Tessa Thompson as his artist girlfriend, and Steven Yeun as his co-worker pushing the group to strike, also stand out. Riley keeps the tone light despite all of the depth the film has, and doesn't dwell on the pathos. A great example is when the young telemarketer has 'made it', so that now he's on the executive floor and invited to a fancy party, but even then he's still forced to rap by the CEO and a large crowd. How this scene plays out is funny, but also disturbing, and as you reflect on it, it's just a powerful, powerful scene. Another example are the 'white voices' being dubbed in with Caucasian actors, which is funny especially the first time you hear it. At first I thought that I would have preferred it if they were done by the African-American actors, but then I thought this was also telling me something, that this is how foreign this mask is to the minority culture. I loved reading this story three years ago when it was included in an issue of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, and was very happy the movie did it justice. It's certainly in keeping with the political messages of Riley's group 'The Coup' as well (check out the 2012 album 'Sorry to Bother You'). It was nice to see that the film was shot in Oakland, and little things like the cameo from W. Kamau Bell. Definitely worth seeing.
THAT KITCHEN SINKING FEELING - My Review of SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (3 Stars) In 1970, Melvin Van Peebles directed a daring comedy called WATERMELON MAN in which a white protagonist wakes up black one day and experiences the world through fresh eyes. Fast forward to 2018 and I couldn't help but think about that film as I watched the auspicious yet flawed debut of Boots Riley's much more surreal SORRY TO BOTHER YOU. Lakeith Stanfield (GET OUT) plays Cassius Green, a jobless man in Oakland who lives in his relative's garage with his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson of DEAR WHITE PEOPLE). With mounting debt, he hilariously nabs a job at a telemarketing company, but money doesn't pour in when the people he calls hear a black voice. These sequences have a real charge as Cassius literally crashes in on the people he calls. One fortuitous day, his cubicle mate, Langston (Danny Glover) offers him the tip to boost his sales by speaking in a white voice. It would be funny if it were not true, and yet it's impossible not to laugh when David Cross' voice comes out of Cassius' mouth. Faster than you can say HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, Cassius ascends the corporate ladder, well on his way to achieving a mysterious elite status. I loved the first act of this film and recognized that going off the rails felt like a fait accompli, but at a certain point, I grew tired of its surreal qualities. While a highly original satire, things get overstuffed and manic, much like latter day John Waters films such as A DIRTY SHAME. Sometimes you just want the hot water instead of the entire kitchen sink. Still, this is a film full of surprises, none of them spoiled here in any detail. Armie Hammer does a knockout job as a Corporate Leader/Monster, all bright smiles and evil intentions. Plus, it's fun seeing him snorting a huge line of coke (or something else perhaps) the likes of which haven't been seen since SCARFACE. Stanfield also does a tremendous job of keeping his character grounded, vulnerable and sweet despite the increasingly crazy tone of the story. Same goes for Thompson, who just can't help being one of my favorite new stars. Throughout, I kept thinking what this film would have been like had Riley chosen to keep things grounded in reality. It may not have been as visually fun as this, thanks to cinematographer Doug Emmett's vibrant work here. He typically has kept his work simple and earthy (ALEX OF VENICE and THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN), so it's nice to see a talented person stretch themselves so well. But, the potency of the satire wore thin as things escalated to such frenetic levels. It reminded me a little of SOYLENT GREEN, although that film stayed as real as it could for as long as possible. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU commits to its nuttiness, for better or for worse. I'd say calm down Boots Riley, as I'd love to experience something a little more calm from this man full of anti-capitalist ideas, rage, hope, and yes, heart.
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