Review: Sorry to Bother You

Sorry to Bother You is a 2018 science fiction comedy film written and directed by Boots Riley and starring Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, , David Cross, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, and Armie Hammer. Set in Oakland, California, the film follows a young African-American telemarketer who adapts a white accent in order to thrive at his job. The film played at the Sundance Film Festival and is scheduled to be released in theaters on July 6.

Sorry to Bother You is an incredibly difficult film to pin down. It’s a comedy, but has incredibly dark moments. It’s not a horror movie per se, but it has undeniably scary dystopian moments. And while not based on a true story, several of its plot points feel ripped from the headlines (condolences to co-star Armie Hammer, who will bear the weight of this last bit). But despite its undefinable nature, it is not to be missed- a fact those who saw the latest trailer might already have gathered. But for those still not yet convinced, I’ve got a multi-point case for why you have to see this film…if you’ll give me a moment of your time.

1. Lakeith Stanfield will blow you away.

Stanfield has been doing quietly hilarious work on FX’s Atlanta for a few years now, but despite supporting roles in last year’s Get Out (we’ll come back to that in a moment) and Netflix’s The Incredible Jessica James, it’s clear that Sorry to Bother You is going to be a rocketship for him.

As Cassius Green, the film’s reluctant telemarketer turned sales wunderkind, he manages to take a simmering anger and frustration with the world around him and transform it into a meteoric rise at a less-than-above-board company. He’s challenged in this endeavor by his idealist girlfriend Detroit (the fantastic Tessa Thompson) and his coworkers (The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun and Superior Donuts’ Jermaine Fowler), as well as within himself. To see Stanfield play out this sort of conflict while still managing to keep it funny hit many of the same notes as his Darius character on Atlanta, and yet he took it to new heights.

His performance is charismatic, heartfelt, and the exact amount of weird that this at-times surreal film requires. Which brings me to my next point…

2. It’s the satire we need right now.

I’ll call it right now: Sorry to Bother You is going to garner a LOT of comparisons to Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Both were written and helmed by first-time directors (Sorry comes from The Coup frontman Boots Riley). Stanfield plays a pivotal role in each. But the two films had different things to say about different parts of American society.

While Get Out is a satire with something to say about race, Sorry to Bother You has something to say about industry and capitalism…as well as race. Riley’s script tackles each with a knowing smirk, recognizing that pieces of the story are going to feel either too real, or wholly plausible (if not in the works right now). And if Get Out managed to provide a closer look at how this country addresses – or doesn’t address – race, this film has the potential to do the same about the positioning of corporations.

3. This one’s a thinker.

It took me a long time to sort out how I felt about this movie. In fact, if I’m honest…I’m still not sure. I loved its humor and the ambition with which it took on several of the ills society deals with every day. I shook my head at some of the “too real” moments, then stopped abruptly as those moments took a sharp turn into the surreal. I love a good Kate Berlant cameo, and this movie has a gooood one. But it’s also at times uncomfortable, and left me scratching my head at a few points…including its twist of an ending in its final moments. It demands a lot of its viewers: a sense of humor, a dose of humility, a suspension of disbelief, and an attentive eye and brain.

It’s funny, it’s intense, it’s complicated…and absolutely worth your time. Answer the call when it hits select cities July 6th and arrives nationwide on July 27th. You won’t be sorry.

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Amma Marfo

Amma Marfo is a writer, speaker, and podcaster based in Boston, MA. Her writing has appeared in Femsplain, The Good Men Project, Pacific Standard, and Talking Points Memo. Chances are good that as you're reading this, she's somewhere laughing.

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