Set in an alternate present-day Oakland, deadbeat Cassius "Cash" Green (Lakeith Stanfield) lives in his uncle’s garage with his girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson). He manages to land a job as a telemarketer but doesn’t reap much success from their ‘STTS’ (‘stick to the script’) policy, until an older co-worker, Langston (Danny Glover), teaches him to use his "white voice". Armed with this new asset, Cash starts to make his way up the career ladder, much to the scorn of his colleagues and girlfriend.
‘Sorry to Bother You’ is unique, insane, and a riot from start to finish. Earlier this year, ‘Blackkklansman’ was praised for its commentary on race and effective use of black comedy. ‘Sorry to Bother You’ provides a less straightforward text but arguably more revolutionary racial critique in its absurdist tone and surreal use of science fiction conventions.
For his directorial debut, musician Boots Riley has created a world that is identifiable and almost – but not quite – our own. Its irregularities jolt the viewer. Detroit wears earrings with messages like ‘Murder’ and ‘Kill’ while citizens can opt to live in the ‘WorryFree’ zone, which provides jobs, food and accommodation to its occupants. Anyone who works in an office will recognise the managerial staff and ‘pep talks’ offered to Cash and his co-workers. Movies like ‘Office Space’ and ‘Idiocracy’ come to mind when you’re watching the film. Strikes often feature in the news while the most popular program on television is the reality show ‘I Got the S*** Beat Out of Me.’ Reality is thus exaggerated, but it is also frighteningly not that far from the present.
One is discouraged diving too far into the message of ‘Sorry to Bother You’ as it is the kind of movie that viewers should see knowing as little as possible (no more is divulged in the plot description above than is revealed in the trailers) and come away from drawing their own conclusions. Suffice to say that its analysis of labour, race and slavery is at the forefront and uncompromising. It is something of a modern day ‘Animal Farm’, becoming increasingly dystopian and, to be frank, f***ing crazy as the story progresses.
Cast to perfection, Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson are effortless as the leads while Steven Yeun and Armie Hammer stand out among the supports. Snappy in its dialogue and editing (almost too much so in its sudden conclusion), and smart in its direction, ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is bursting with vitality and bonkers in the best way. Aside from being powerful and highly original, it is very, very funny. You’ll find yourself thinking and talking about it for days after.