Monday With Mildred: “Sorry to Bother You”

Sorry to Bother You movie poster.

Sorry to Bother You

“Sorry to Bother You.” You’ve heard those words before, probably after getting up from dinner to answer your phone. Boots Riley, the director of this film refers to it as, “Absurdist dark comedy with magical realism and science fiction inspired by the world of telemarketing.” My notes say, “Surreal at different levels, now and then, with just enough touch of real life to be really effective.”

Cassius Green (LaKeith Stanfield) is quickly introduced as a loser who is overjoyed to get a new job as a tiny cog in a huge telemarking firm. He learns the cardinal rule of selling strangers stuff they don’t want over the phone is Stick To The Script. What we learn more slowly through the film is that Cassius is both a really nice guy, and easily influenced by people he respects, like his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) and union building co-worker Squeeze (Steven Yeun). We also slowly learn that most of the people in Cassius’ world have hidden depths.

Getting a job means he might make enough to not succumb to the allure of working at Worry Free Living, where for a fourteen hour workday you get three hots and a cot – that you have to share – in what is a pimped out prison for regular people. A twenty-first century poorhouse. There’s also the possibility that he might perfect his “white voice” and become PC, a Power Caller. Then he can take the golden elevator (a funny and disturbing character in itself) up to the luxury suite where the really big business is done at RegalView.

The further we get into the increasingly bizarre world of Cassius’ Oakland, the heavier and more blatant the movie’s social commentary becomes. It’s somewhat diluted by taking on more than one social ill, from a devastatingly stratified society, “people know they can’t solve the problem, so they just get used to the problem”, to the rallying cry of a rich man to his workers, “I’m on your side. I’ll root for you from the sidelines” (sounding very BLM cheerleaderly), to a truly horrifying scene of racism and self-hatred that made me want to turn off the television.

Sorry to Bother You is funny. It’s sexy, it’s sweet, it’s horrifying. Writer/director Boots Riley drew great work out of all his actors. Tessa Thompson is gorgeous and more subtle than we’ve seen her in the blockbuster films she’s become most famous for. Steven Yeun, who I have loved since The Walking Dead, is seriously believable as the brave union builder. Danny Glover is the hilarious elder statesman. The biggest revelation for me was LaKeith Stanfield, who had the greatest range to portray from hopeful loser to sweet lover to a man who finds he has to make some huge moral choices in his life and then learn to deal with the repercussions.

One of the best parts for me was I had no idea how this movie would end, and while I wasn’t completely surprised, I was completely satisfied. The end of the film absolutely fits the tone and messaging of the rest of the movie. I highly recommend seeing Sorry to Bother You, because it’s enjoyable and gorgeously shot and well-acted, written and directed. Everything is solid, and a great example of a film that can entertain while maintaining a real sense of danger and questioning of everyone’s moral fiber.

Sorry to Bother You Trailer #1 (2018) | Movieclips Trailers

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