Note: These are my thoughts on a film I previously reviewed back in 2018 before starting Reviews & Dunn.
Boots Riley, lead vocalist of the hip-hop band, The Coup makes a stunning directorial debut with Sorry to Bother You from Annapurna Pictures. In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is having a rough life—living in his uncle’s garage and struggling to find a job. While his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) emotionally supports him, Cassius is strapped for cash and desperate; he lands a position as a telemarketer but has difficulty getting people to listen to him.
Cash discovers a magical key to customers’ attention thanks to some guidance from his cubicle neighbor Langston (Danny Glover). The trick is using his “white voice.” Cash quickly rises to the top of the telemarketing hierarchy but risks losing sight of his morals as he achieves more significant and more tremendous success. Once Cash reaches the top, he is working side by side with Mr. Blank (Omari Hardwick) and living out what he thinks is the American dream.
After seeing the first trailer for Sorry to Bother You last winter, I began to await the film anxiously. First, I must say that director Boots Riley has constructed a hilarious movie for his first film that juggles social commentary, media manipulation, and science fiction largely. I cannot recall the last time I watched a debut by a director, which was free of pacing issues or one that kept me surprised the entire time.
Lakeith Stanfield is a revelation in his first lead role. While I have been a fan of Stanfield for years, it was finally great to see Stanfield in a lead role. Tessa Thompson is excellent as well as Detroit as she struggles to support Cash and chase her dreams. The chemistry between the two is natural, and when I watched the film, I rooted for their relationship. I also enjoyed seeing Jermaine Fowler as Cash’s best friend and coworker Salvador, who has some of the best moments in the film. Fowler has perfect comedic timing, and hopefully, this leads to more work.
Sorry to Bother You takes an unexpected turn in its third act, which may perplex mainstream viewers. In the third act, we meet Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), a CEO who wants Cassius to work for him. The plan that Lift has for Cassius is flat-out nuts. However, as a storytelling device, it works. While I will not go into details about Lift’s plan, all a viewer needs to do is pay close attention to some of the symbolism in the first act of Sorry to Bother You to see where the film is going, minus a few surprises.
One of the natural highlights of the film is the use of overdubbing. David Cross does the “white voice” for Cassius, while Lakeith Stanfield mouths the word. Initially, I thought this would become a distraction; however, this never happens, and the film moves along quickly. One of my favorite moments in the movie occurs after an intimate moment between Detroit (Tessa Thompson) and Cassius (Lakeith Stanfield). Detroit explains to Cassius that he does not need to use the white voice when he is with her, as he can be himself, as Cash gently laughs her off. Cash’s response to Detroit’s concern contrasts to a later scene where Mr. Blank (Omari Hardwick) tells Cash to use his white voice at all times.
My only small compliment about Sorry to Bother You is that we never get a “white voice” for Salvador (Jermaine Fowler). I would have loved to see whom Riley would have chosen to use due to Fowler’s natural comedic charisma.
Sorry to Bother You is easily one of my top three films this summer season. Walking out of the theater, my friends and I discussed the film. Sorry to Bother You is a film that will stick with you, well after the credits roll, and I highly recommend it.
Final Grade : A