SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Review by: Christopher Haskell
JULY 6, 2018
COMEDY | FANTASY | SCI-FI
(for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use)
“If you get shown a problem but have no idea how to control it then you just decide to get used to the problem.”Squeeze (Steven Yeun)
Boots Riley breaks through the clutter with his directorial debut. Take a step back and look at the absurd era we live in, where our leaders are tweeting on a daily basis (looking at you President T…) and negativity rules the day, and then realize that getting any sort of substantial messages across to anyone is nearly impossible. Yet, by being uniquely outlandish and creating positive groundswell, Boots Riley not only creates an entertaining first feature in “Sorry To Bother You,” but he creates a pretty effective soapbox in which to project his very distinct voice.
Much like his telemarketing characters using their “white” voices to bait and hook customers, Riley does his own version of this by showing the broad-strokes of the film in the initial marketing. Come for the fresh names like Lakeith Stanfeld (“Get Out”) and Tessa Thompson (“Dear White People” & “Thor: Ragnarok”), get hooked by the out-of-the-box underdog comedy, and get switched by an eventual turn that goes beyond anything you could ever imagine, straight from the mind of a director who started out first as an activist. What the film eventually becomes is right up there with the revelations presented in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” where suddenly the film evolves into being about way more than just a young man meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time. And boy, does this debut evolve into way more than just a story about worker’s unions and rising through the ranks of the telemarketing game.
Casting in this film is crucial. When a film’s plot dives over the edge into unconventional territory, it becomes part of an actor’s job to reel the ideas back in to something palatable. Besides the aforementioned leads in Stanfeld and Thompson, who carry a large part of the film on their own, Armie Hammer grounds his role perfectly, keeping a tether on what easily could have been an overblown and completely eccentric villain. Danny Glover, who is still “too old for this shit,” and Steven Yeun are also nice additions to the ensemble. With this extraordinary cast and some exceptional writing, Boots Riley is able to produce not only one of the most original comedies of the year, but one of the best directorial debuts in recent memory. And, in the process, he creates a Trojan horse (pun intended) for his remarkable views to sneak into the conversations of plenty of people that otherwise may have never given him the time of day.
BEST FIRST FEATURE
Nina Yang Bongiovi
Charles D. King
Review word count: 415