Sorry to Bother You is one crazy piece of theater. The crazy works. It delivers a powerful punch in an imaginative package. Written and directed by Boots Riley, this is a tale about class, race, greed, exploitation, and love. Boots Riley is one of those fresh voices in American cinema people are always talking about.
There were social justice messages all over this movie. The best thing about the whole movie was the earrings and tee shirts that Tessa Thompson wore as the character Detroit, artist and sign waver. It’s worth watching the movie just to see them all. Oh, okay. Maybe that wasn’t the best thing, but Tessa Thompson is always the best thing anywhere. It works for me.
The issues underneath all the crazy comedy go much deeper than tee shirts and earrings. however.
Here’s the basic plot, which really gives you no clue about how the story is told and what themes get worked into it. Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is desperately broke. He lives in his uncle’s garage. His uncle (Terry Crews) is also desperately broke. Cassius gets a job as a telemarketer. His creepy AF manager is played by Michael X. Sommers.
Telemarketers make basically nothing, so Squeeze (Steven Yeun) promotes strikes and unionizing. The whole group of telemarketers join in.
While this is going on Cassius takes the advice of the man in the cubical next to his: Langston (Danny Glover). Langston advises talking with his “white voice.” When he does, he sells so much that he becomes a Power Caller and moves upstairs. He makes so much money upstairs he gets a new car and a nice apartment immediately.
By now Cassius’ greedy ways have lost him his beautiful artist girlfriend, Detroit. She’s disgusted that he’s walking through the strikers as a scab just for the money. She breaks up with him.
His upstairs boss, Mr. _______ (Omari Hardwick) wants to take him to meet the head of the company. The company that traps people in dorm-like rooms, feeds them crap, and makes them work 14 hour days. That man is Steve Lift (Armie Hammer). He’ll exploit anyone without a qualm just to make a profit.
He goes to a party at Steve Lift’s place and learns that Lift is manufacturing a chemical that turns his slave labor into half horse, half human creatures that can do the work of many. These horse people are none too happy about their transformations, either.
Cassius finally snaps out of his money induced coma and takes action to free the workers. He’s a genius in a street fight.
The ending is both funny and tragic. Let’s just say, It ain’t over when it’s over.
The “white” voices come from David Cross, Patton Oswalt and Lily James. Jermaine Fowler plays Cassius’ friend Salvadore. Forest Whitaker looks a bit horsey. Rosario Dawson is the disembodied voice in the elevator who talks dirty to Cassius.
Cassius and Langston as character’s names are obvious call outs to African American heroes. But perhaps you don’t realize that Mr. _______ is a call out to Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, in which Danny Glover played the part of Mr. _______.
Sorry to Bother You is available from Amazon Video and Hulu. It’s a must see film.