Activist and rapper (The Coup, Street Sweeper Social Club) Boots Riley produces one of the most audacious cinematic debuts in recent years with Sorry to Bother You. In an alternate reality, a down-on-his-luck Cassius Green takes a job as a telemarketer. The African-American Cassius adopts a 'white voice' to get ahead, and it works. Yet as he moves up the corporate ladder he grows apart from his friends and girlfriend, and begins to uncover sinister secrets about just who he works for.
It is safe to say that there isn't a film quite like Sorry To Bother You. Stylistically evocative, Sorry To Bother You benefits greatly from drawing off a number of talented indie creatives. Production design comes courtesy of Jason Kisvarday (who also worked on the phenomenal music video for 'This Is America'), while cinematographer Doug Emmett gives the film a fabulously crisp look. There are elements of the surreal adopted by Michael Gondry, such as when Cassius and his desk hurtle into the rooms of people he is calling. The film's look and sound is so distinctive it initially feels overwhelming, which may be why the last act feels less than what has come before. By this point you're used to how Riley's film works and it has, narratively, shown you the cards in its hand.
In a stellar cast there are cracking turns from the likes of Danny Glover, Jermaine Fowler and Armie Hammer (who threatens to steal the show with his third act arrival). Yet it is Tessa Thompson and Lakeith Stanfield who are the film's stars, their chemistry radiating off the screen. Stanfield's performance in particular is fascinatingly understated, simultaneously low-energy and captivating. It manages to ground much of the film, even when the film takes a few unexpected left turns.
But for all the films stylistic tics and great performances, Sorry To Bother You belongs almost entirely to director Riley and the clarity of his vision. It brims with rage, never losing sight of the story it is telling and the message it is seeking to get across. If Get Out effectively captured the terror inspired by racial injustice in
While there may be similarities to the licks of BlacKkKlansman and Get Out, Sorry To Bother You is very much a unique proposition. Focused yet sprawling, surreal yet grounded in reality, Sorry To Bother You is a cinematic gut punch. If Riley struggles to find an ending that pleasingly closes his piece, it may be just because he has so much to say throughout. He feels like a talent we will be hearing a lot from in years to come.