SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Review by Gordon Justesen
Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Patton
Oswalt, David Cross, Steven Yuen, Armie Hammer
Director: Boots Riley
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: October 23, 2018
“Tonight, we will have a transformative experience.”
Any film that manages to pull off a seemingly impossible task and resulting in a wholly original piece is gonna be brilliant in my book. Such is the case with Sorry to Bother You, a mystifyingly blazing social satire blended with a dash of science fiction and an all around absurdist feel. It really is hard these days to come across a film that really feels like something you have never seen before, and that’s exactly what this feels like scene for scene.
Rapper Boots Riley crafts one of the most striking filmmaking debuts to ever surface. His inspirations appear to be that of Spike Lee, Charlie Kaufman and Terry Gilliam, and he mixes elements from each of the three (along with a visual style all his own) to craft one of the more unique visions I’ve have yet to see in quite some time. The film is simultaneously hilarious and seriously haunting, as it has stayed in my mind longer after my first viewing more so than any other film this year...or hell, maybe any other film in the last several years.
The setting is Oakland in what is a slightly alternate reality (one of the most hilarious bits in relation to this is the nation’s most popular game show called “I Got the S#*@ Kicked Out of Me!”). Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is struggling to make some money, and couldn’t be happier when he gets a job as a telemarketer at Regal View. The job itself proves to be a serious struggle at first, at Cassius can’t find a way to connect with any of his call subjects. That is, until veteran employee Langston (Danny Glover), suggests a key strategy to Cassius...just use your white voice.
And that strategy proves to be golden for Cash, who then finds himself climbing up the corporate latter as a result. He is then propelled to the “Power Caller” position, which means working the more prestigious floor above the regular callers. Before long, though, he comes face to face with the truth behind what he is selling, that of slave labor.
Things only get more insane when Cash has a meeting with Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), CEO of a corporation called WorryFree (Regal View’s biggest backer/client) which promises food and housing the poor individuals who simply agree to sign their lives over to them. He then reveals his proposed idea of “slave labor”, and how it can be very lucrative for Cash. And trust me when I say I still haven’t revealed the craziest aspect of this movie.
Many may feel the film’s third act is where it goes off the rails completely. And trust me, it is a bizarre revelation that feels out of nowhere. But I embraced it completely, mainly because in a film that was already operating on a certain level of absolute strangeness, it actually felt somewhat appropriate. Also (like most of the movie) it felt like a middle finger to the rules of convention, which is something I’m always in favor of.
The film garnered one hell of an ensemble cast, headlined by a wonderful piece of deadpan awkwardness by Lakeith Stanfield, whose performance grows more perfect as the level of craziness slowly increases throughout the proceedings. His inner white voice, it should be mentioned, is provided perfectly by David Cross. Other white voices heard throughout the movie are provided by Patton Oswalt, Lily James and even Steve Buscemi in one scene.
Tessa Thompson provides another winning turn as Cash’s performance artist girlfriend, Detroit. She holds a most memorable art exhibit midway through the film. And though he’s essentially playing a scumbag, Armie Hammer is nothing short of endearing in his performance.
How many films can you say are altogether visually engaging, intelligently stimulating, insanely hilarious, and gloriously berserk? It could be that Sorry to Bother You is the very first film to be all such things at once. It is currently my top favorite film of this year, and it could very much be unsurpassable at this point!
The Blu-ray release from Fox is 100% on point from beginning to end. The visual style of the film is enhanced beautifully in the 1080p, with colors associated with the top notch production design given a superbly dynamic and riveting appearance in particular. Image detail is wonderfully displayed in scene after scene. Both lightly and darkly lit sequences are delivered quite extravagantly, as well. A grand visual presentation every step of the way!
Throughout the strange proceedings, the DTS HD mix accompanies it beautifully and effectively. Right down to the aural effects used in the telemarketer sequences, the lossless sound provides a fluent and awesome piece of sound quality. The fiery soundtrack (most of which is provided by Boots Riley’s rap group, The Coup) gets fantastic delivery, in addition. Dialogue delivery is also gloriously heard and handled from beginning to end!
Included on this Fox Blu-ray is a terrific and informative commentary by writer/director Boots Riley, a featurette titled “Beautiful Clutter with Director Boots Riley”, two promotional trailers, a production photo gallery and a Theatrical Trailer.
At a time when the movie scene seems completely ridden of originality, along comes a knockout piece like Sorry to Bother You. First time writer/director Boots Riley announces his arrival with a most adventurous piece of filmmaking with a film that dares to be out-it’s-mind-bonkers while having something serious to say in a very distinctive way! I loved every bewildering minute of it!