Sorry To Bother You – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Sorry to Bother You Title Card - Red

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Sorry To Bother You will probably be the most bizarre film you watch that doesn’t make you want to leave the theater or turn off your screen.


Director(s) Boots Riley
Screenplay By Boots Riley
Date Released (Wide) 7/12/2018
Genre(s) Comedy
Good If You Like Social Commentary Presented In A Bizarre Way

Satirical comedy

Noted Actors
Cassius Lakeith Stanfield
Detroit Tessa Thompson
Sergio Terry Crews
Langston Danny Glover
Squeeze Steven Yeun
Mr. _____ Omari Hardwick
Steve Lift Armie Hammer
Cassius’ white Voice David Cross
Detroit’s white Voice Lily James
Langston’s white Voice ?
Mr. ____’s white Voice Patton Oswalt

Summary

Cassius is someone who seemingly peaked in high school and that bothers the living hell out of him. Especially because, outside of his girlfriend Detroit, there isn’t much to show for his life. He lives in his uncle’s garage, he works a dead-end job as a telemarketer and his uncle is about to lose his house so he might just be homeless. All of which Detroit doesn’t care about since she loves weird and broke Cassius. However, she is this wonderful and interesting artist and while he isn’t insecure about the relationship, he wants more for himself to be able to offer her more.

So, taking the advice of Langston, Cassius begins to use his “white” voice and he makes money. Which comes at the perfect time for Squeeze, a union organizer, wants to unionize the floor and Cassius being a big seller means him being on their side is leverage. However, management takes advantage of Cassius and promotes him to take him away from his people and so begins the movie going from an odd comedy to presenting some bizarrely presented social commentary.

I won’t spoil the WTF happenings but let’s say the movie goes into how important unions are. That is, alongside how corporations don’t care about anything but profit and exploiting people, that separation from one’s people leads you down a dark and often lonely path, and so much more. All of which leads Cassius to strange and sometimes wonderful places. More so in terms of your mind than him as a person.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Was Worry Free’s labor solution only experimented in Oakland, and in urban areas, or around the world?
  2. Did Langston perhaps train Mr. _____? Who taught him to use a white voice? Hell, who was Mr. ____?
  3. What happened to Cassius’ parents? Why was he living with his uncle?

Highlights

The Bizarre Social Commentary

Langston putting Cassius onto the game and teaching him how talking in a white voice makes money.

Let’s expand on that last paragraph. One of the things, if not sole if we are being honest, that makes this movie worth watching is how it presents its social commentary. Squeeze trying to unionize the telemarketers is about these purely commission people, with a dead end job, working but making a living wage. Something that won’t happen as individuals because then they are expendable. You ask for a raise and make too big of a stink, we can fire you and move on. However, bind together, get news coverage, really hit the company in their pocket, then they have to profit share.

Leading to Cassius role which deals with him becoming a power caller. A lot of the times, there is this idea with some people that because they made it, things are fine. If not, now that they made it, the problems they used to deal with are no longer their problems. Yet, through Cassius and Mr. _____, we see you exchange one issue for another. After all, as Biggie said, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” It’s just, now instead of the little things which presented personal issues, now you are presented moral ones. Because no one gets rich without it being off the back of someone else. For that ladder of success people talk about? Yeah, it is made of human bodies.

Oh, and then code-switching. While used mostly for comedic effect, it also speaks largely for the Black experience. While you can be tolerated speaking in a “Will Smith” voice, to truly find success you have to take that up a notch to a privileged white person who works as a hobby voice. Which is an important statement for when we meet Steve Lift, he checks Cassius. He reminds him that no matter how special he thinks he is, how good he thinks he is, how perfected his white voice is and how much money he makes the company, he will always remain this negro from Oakland. One of the talented ones, or good ones, but still one he expects to be able to rap and tell some entertaining gangster stories.

And the combination of these topics, amongst others, presented in weird, sometimes comical, and often bizarre ways, all present a big Black middle finger to capitalism. Especially how America does and enables capitalism to be one of the most f***ed up economic systems in the world.

On The Fence

In Pursuit of The Social Commentary, It Leaves Its Characters Behind

Cassius looking sad as chaos goes on behind him.

After a certain point, this film isn’t really about Cassius, Detroit, Squeeze, or any other character. It is about the film’s message. One which, as noted, is quite good, layered, and likely far more complicated than I’m willing, may be able, to go into. However, there comes a point where the characters are but a vehicle for that message and nothing more.

After a while, you won’t really question why isn’t Cassius living with his parents, or even Detroit’s, versus his uncle’s garage. You may not find yourself wondering why Langston never went upstairs and whether Mr. ____ was trained by him. Hell, you may not even find yourself wondering how Mr. ____ got upstairs, never mind why he has an eye patch or what this negro’s name is! For as Cassius goes further and further down the rabbit hole, who he and the rest of these people are because the least interesting thing to question. You just want to know where is this going and do you really get what is going on or are you just trying to make sense of everything?

Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Sorry To Bother You - Title Card in purple.
Click on the image to buy tickets.

Though marked as a comedy, this isn’t that funny. If anything, the comedy is used to make the commentary something you can swallow. Topics which don’t feel like how they are often presented in an overly politicized way with professional social justice warriors or stooges. Rather, they are presented in a way which aren’t so obscure you’re like “Huh?” but definitely weird enough where you do have to put some thought into it.

Hence the positive label for I really did think this was going to be overhyped. Which, in a way, it is. I feel many cinephiles, especially ones who enjoy or are part of Black culture, may put this up there. For in a way, it is like what you imagine Bamboozled

kind of was supposed to be. It’s in that ilk but when this gets ridiculous, it is in a good way you can enjoy. And that enjoyment will have you sitting there amazed, a bit confused, but strangely entertained as the gears in your mind are going. And a comedy which makes you think a bit? How often can you really say those come out? Especially ones which features Black leads and is written and directed by a Black man?


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About Amari Sali 2902 Articles
New Jersey native Amari Sali takes the approach of more so being a media advisor than a critic to sort of fill in the gap left between casual fans of media and those who review productions for a living. Thus being open about bias while still giving enough insight, often with spoilers, to present whether something is worth seeing, buying, renting, streaming, or checking out at all.