Its funny how you go into a festival like SXSW with a plan, but then a movie showing there comes out of nowhere and you must see it. That’s what happened when the trailer for Sorry to Bother You was released online a day or two into the festival. The trailer just oozed personality and a wild energy that connected with me. As such I made the changes to my schedule necessary to catch it on its next, and final, showing, and I’m glad to bring you my review from that now.
Sorry To Bother You is the story of Cassius Greent (Lakieth Stanfield, Atlanta) who starts work at a call center to finally pay his bills, like his rent to his uncle who’s garage he stays in. The call center is low budget and the employees are treated averagely at best, but it beats nothing. Its not long before his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson, Thor: Ragnarok), and friends Squeeze (Steven Yun, The Walking Dead) and Salvador (Jermaine Fowler) all work there. Things seem bleak, but Cassius picks up on a trick from his co-worker Langstrom (Danny Glover) who advises him to use his “White Voice” (David Cross). With this voice he starts killing it at his job and gets promoted to Power Caller level where he starts selling the services of the biggest company in the world that sells workers as essentially slave labor. Can Cassius keep his friends and morals while doing this job? Only time will tell.
I have to say that the cast in this film are really fantastic, and having a great time with it all. Stanfield is amazing in Atlanta as Darrius, and as such I was excited to see what he could do here, and this film really lets him shine. He has so much charisma that you love him even as he makes all the wrong choices, and root for him to get back on the right path and save the day. Thompson is just a ball of energy and style here, and its clear that she really is a star on the rise since Thor: Ragnarok and you will fall for her wild artist character very quickly. The next biggest character though is truly Mr. ______ played by Omari Hardwick who is the leader of the Power Callers and looks like a 1970’s spy villain, but almost always talks with his White Voice, Patton Oswalt. Its worth giving Oswalt and Cross a lot of credit too as, while they don’t actually appear in the film, they are a massive part and make up some of the best humor in the film. The last major character is Armie Hammer as Steve Lift, the owner of the world’s most exploitative corporation, and just a straight up crazy madman with way too much money to be reasonable. For a film that has such a good lead cast, then also includes the likes of Glover, Steven Yun, and even Terry Crews its not hard to understand how great the film really can be.
The writing and direction is where it gets its craziness, but I also feel like a lot of its issues too. Writer/director Boots Riley creates a really interesting alternative version of present day Oakland that feels like it walks the line between reality, Idiocracy, and am acid trip. There’s people going to their day jobs, and there’s people signing their lives away to be property of a company to get free food and housing for life. When the film is at its most weird and wild is when it feels like its most at home and when it really excels. The problem is that when it starts up there is a lot of the “normal” world to go through, where it feels a little dry at times, relying on the cast’s personalities and skilled performances to keep it going. And they do a good job, but its just hard to ignore the downtime. But I’d be lying if I said that by the midway point you aren’t having a great time as the reality gets way off the rails. Overall, I really love what is built up to that point and where it goes. That is to say, except the very, very end. No spoilers, but I felt it was kinda unnecessary and kinda hurt the film with where it left off because it felt tacked on top of a good ending.
While not certainly flawed at times, the wild journey that Sorry To Bother You takes you on is just a true pleasure. Even if it has some points where its too dry, and pushes it’s luck a bit with a tag at the ending, I overall still highly recommend checking it out if you like weird and fun films that make some social commentary, but then also have David Cross as the whitest voice you ever heard. Watch the trailer, and if you connect with it then you’ll almost definitely have as much fun with Sorry to Bother You as I did.