3 (out of 4)
Boots Riley's auspicious debut has been stirring up conversation since it debuted at Sundance earlier this year and no doubt Sorry to Bother You merits its spot on the lips of acolytes of indie filmmaking for numerous reasons.
Much to the credit of Riley – communist and former rapper/hip hop producer of his music collective The Coup – the messages entrenched in his first film function as an exhaustive rant on the current orientation of cultural consumption, the pressing problems of capitalism, the façade of corporate America and the mechanics of racial adaptation. But it's almost as if, knowing that his scathing lampoon would need the comic beats of mainstream flicks in order to appeal to a wider audience, Boots sacrificed substantiating his many theses in order to awkwardly pause for a few laughs.
It's disappointing because appealing to the whims of commercial interest is the exact slippery slope the film goes to great lengths to illustrate. Riley's own carefully constructed themes and ingenious satire throughout Sorry to Bother You is unnecessarily hampered for the sake of satisfying the most feeble-minded moviegoers. Despite these frustrating blemishes, the film is faultlessly entertaining and fortified with inspired cinematic showmanship. Sorry to Bother You is so audacious and unapologetic that its own abundance of ambition is absolutely admirable.
The idea of our African-American main characters accessing their white voice to excel at telemarketing – a gimmick that utilizes the timbres of Patton Oswalt and David Cross extremely well – leads down a narrative path that recalls the subversive racial and social critiques within Get Out. Except in this case the horror elements that crop up in Sorry to Bother You confine the film into a stubborn quirkiness, weakening the otherwise potent wokeness. But then again there's nothing too subtle about the film's strange cautionary tale – it really wouldn't make sense to underplay the film's near-future dystopian sci-fi sociopolitical commentary. The Dirty Projectors' sonic contributions assist in elevating and complimenting the film's bizarre premise and jocular tone.
Lakeith Stanfield made excellent supporting turns in Short Term 12 and the aforementioned Jordan Peele debut, and he remains an extraordinarily likable performer now as the unlikely protagonist Cash Green. Tessa Thompson is unfortunately typecast as the artistic girlfriend just as she was in Creed. Armie Hammer’s caricature of cocaine-snorting CEO scumbag Steve Lift, however, is something to behold and the sequence involving Cash's experience at Lift's surreal Eyes Wide Shut-inspired house party is loaded with delightfully absurdist moments. I may have been hearing crickets during the most painfully obvious jokes but Riley had me dying at the smartest satirical stabs.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
The Girl in the
and the Four Realms