Racial tensions are high across America and the world as the President of the United States openly supports and practices racism and bigotry. This environment leads to films that document and even mock the times we live in. That’s essentially what’s going on in Sorry to Bother You from first-time writer, Boots Riley. It’s a strange film that has a message for all to see, if you can get through the obstacle course of distractions Riley throws at the audience. Join us as we dive into this strange and unique world in our Sorry to Bother You movie review.
Sorry to Bother You takes place in an alternate version of present-day Oakland. Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is struggling to make ends meet when he lands a job as a telemarketer and starts to quickly move up the corporate ladder. His artistic fiancée, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), is an activist with strong beliefs about what’s wrong with the world. While this representation of Oakland may be fictional, it has a lot of parallels to the real world.
With such an incredible cast, that includes Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer, David Cross and more, you’d think Sorry to Bother You has a lot going for it. And while the message is definitely there, Boots Riley’s second directorial effort is muddled by an increasingly obtuse screenplay that does more to confuse the audience than to speak a clear message.
Stanfield and Thompson shine as Cassius Green and Detroit respectively, and they’re joined by stellar performances from Jermaine Fowler as Green’s friend Salvador, Steven Yeun as co-worker Squeeze, and Omari Hardwick as the man with no name. The first half of the film pulls you in and makes you wonder what exactly is going on, with a mix of humor, artistic flair and even a few reality checks about the world of telemarketing, social change, racial profiling and more.
The film begins as a seemingly normal day in the life of Green. Boots Riley takes his time setting up the world and the key players in the film, allowing the audience to get to know these characters. Unfortunately, the slow burn doesn’t pay off. Once you’re invested in these well-crafted and intriguing characters, instead of a powerful and insightful climax that delivers a message for all to hear, the film barrels into confusion with a sloppy plot twist that feels more like a Saturday morning cartoon than a racially charged call to action.
In an attempt to be somewhat of an art house film, Sorry to Bother You loses its focus and falls flat on its face by the time the credits roll. It’s almost as if Riley passed writing duties on to an imaginative eighth grader when it was time to write the third act of the film. Couple this with the slow pace at the beginning of the movie and it makes you wonder if a potential masterpiece was left somewhere on the editing room floor. Sorry to Bother You will certainly entertain some moviegoers, but if you’re looking for more than a child-like plot twist, you may want to hold off until this one is streaming on Netflix.
About Sorry to Bother You
Synopsis: In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a macabre universe.
Director: Boots Riley
Writer: Boots Riley
Stars: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, David Cross
Runtime: 1 Hour, 45 Minutes