In my review of Skyscraper, I poked fun at the movie for being an “original film.” It isn’t based off anything therefor it is technically “original” but it is a highly derivative film. Then when I went to see Sorry to Bother You, I thought to myself, I haven’t seen a movie quite like this before. I had the complete opposite experience.
Oh, the baseline story has been done before. Sorry to Bother You follows a struggling young man named Cassius Green. He gets a job at a telemarketing company and struggles. The company is always looking to promote one of their employees to the position of “power caller”. These are callers work upstairs and have their own elevator and get paid a lot of money. Struggling with his own financial situation Cassius finds a way to improve his selling techniques by tapping into his “white voice”. Quickly he becomes a huge success and gets promoted as his friends are about to go on strike for their lack of wages. Cassius has to choose between his new job and his friend’s moral stance.
That’s the baseline story. The story of a someone making a huge success and is faced with the dilemma of compromising his/her morals and relationships in the face of success has been done countless times before. But unlike a movie like Skyscraper, that does almost nothing new with its premise, Sorry to Bother You adds mountains of layers and style onto its story. The results make for one of the craziest, wildest and most bizarre movie-going experiences I have had in a for a very long time.
This is a very difficult movie to talk about without giving away spoilers. I’ll do my best to review this film without giving much away but I would suggest going into this movie as cold as you can because love it or hate it, you’ll never forget Sorry to Bother You.
Sorry to Bother You takes place in an alternate version of modern-day Oakland. The keyword is alternate. Sorry to Bother You plays with the fabric of reality and adds a healthy dose of Sci-Fi, satire, and allegory to do that. First time director Boots Riley injects a viewpoint of the world that is communicated through the comedy and satirical edge of the movie. Boots Riley gives this story layers and attempts to communicate something about our own world by reflecting an alternative one about corporations, race, and jobs. There is a lot to unpack here and just when you think you’ve seen everything the movie has to offer Sorry to Bother You takes a left turn and then turns back right for good measure. This movie isn’t afraid to go to some weird paces and be a bit cheesy as well. This is like modern Dr. Seuss on steroids.
There is so much in Sorry to Bother You but I would also argue a bit too much. There are times when the movie does drag and the style seems to overtake the entire film. There is a love triangle plot that really didn’t feel like it was needed especially when you had Tessa Thompson’s character being as radical and free spiriting as she is. Her character feels like she should be above that trope.
These are small complaints because when I found myself losing interest (and I thought I had seen everything the movie had to offer) it pulled the rug out from under me once when Armie Hammer came on screen. I was hooked back in with Hammer’s over the top performance and his own plotline. For those who doubted Hammer through the years, this serves as yet another reminder (after his terrific performance in Call Me By Your Name) that he has a tremendous amount of range.
Sorry to Bother You is a unique and fresh movie. The blend of science fiction, satire, fantasy is a welcomed and bizarre combination. Writer/director Boots Riley has a lot to say and while sometimes he loses focus he is able to stick the landing of this movie’s crazy third act. This is both topical and relevant. There are strong performances from Lakeith Stanfield, Armie Hammer and especially Tessa Thompson. This movie is not for everyone but if you want weird and different then this is the perfect movie for you. You have to admire a movie that is so daring and different. I am looking forward to watching this movie again.