Time: 111 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence, drug use, sexual material, offensive language & content that may disturb
Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius “Cash” Green
David Cross as Cash’s “white voice”
Tessa Thompson as Detroit
Jermaine Fowler as Salvador
Omari Hardwick as Mr. _______
Patton Oswalt as Mr. _______’s white voice
Terry Crews as Sergio Green
Danny Glover as Langston
Steven Yeun as Squeeze
Armie Hammer as Steve Lift
Director: Boots Reilly
In an alternate reality of present-day Oakland, Calif., telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) finds himself in a macabre universe after he discovers a magical key that leads to material glory. As Green’s career begins to take off, his friends and co-workers organize a protest against corporate oppression. Cassius soon falls under the spell of Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), a cocaine-snorting CEO who offers him a salary beyond his wildest dreams.
I had been hearing some buzz for Sorry to Bother You for a while. A lot of people have been proclaiming it one of the best of the year, while it polarised a lot of other people. I didn’t watch any of the trailers, I just knew that basic plot and some of the cast involved and that was it, so going in I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Sorry to Bother You is one of the most original films of the year that will work for some and won’t work for others. Its full of ideas, entertaining, and is mostly well put together.
You have to watch Sorry to Bother You as an absurdist dark comedy, you can’t take lots of the movie as literal. So much of the movie is satirical, and a lot of the satire is blatant rather than subtle but it still somehow works. Thematically there’s a lot going on (which you’ll see for yourself), maybe a little too much, like writer/director Boots Reilly wanted to cover a lot and maybe he chose to do too much. Though I think it works well enough. I think it would be a disservice to reveal some of the things that happen in the movie (and plus it benefits not knowing much going in), so I’ll keep it as vague as possible. The whole thing about the lead character becoming successful as a telemarketer by putting on a ‘white voice’ is pretty much just covering the first act. Even when odd things were happening in the first and second acts, it wasn’t full out crazy yet. Where that changed was in the third act, from a suddenly dark moment/reveal that changes a lot from that point going forward. You just sort of have to go along with it, as absurd as it is. I was able to go along with it but I can easily see why it doesn’t work for others and was too much, because it is admittedly ridiculous both on paper and in practice. Sorry to Bother You is an hour and 50 minutes long and I found it entertaining from start to finish. Both the comedy and drama was balanced out well I thought, even though there’s generally more comedy here. There is a sort of ‘argument’ of sorts between Lakeith Stanfield and Jermaine Fowler that’s one of the funniest scenes of 2018. Aside from potentially tackling way too many themes, I guess the only other flaw I could think of was that the female characters are a little underwritten. Honestly there’s a lot to take in with the movie, so my opinion on the plot and the overall movie may change on a second viewing.
Lakeith Stanfield is great in the lead role as Cassius Green, balancing both drama and comedy really well, particularly shining in the later scenes of the movie. Tessa Thompson is really good as Cassius’s girlfriend, I mentioned how the female roles are underwritten a little bit, but Thompson does a lot with aherrole and is a real standout. Jermaine Fowler, Steven Yeun, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews and Danny Glover are also good as the supporting cast. The white voices, done by David Cross, Patton Oswalt and Lily James were also pretty good. Although he’s not in the movie a lot, Armie Hammer gives by far his best performance yet here as a cocaine fuelled CEO. It’s a very different role for him, a much darker and hateable role but he actually seems at home playing it, more so than his other roles. He steals every scene that he’s in and I kinda wished that we got to see more of him. Aside from an interview clip in the first act, we really see him in a few scenes from the end of the second act.
For a directorial debut, Boots Reilly did a great job with the film overall. What particularly stood out is that he gets really creative with the way that he films a lot of the scenes. For example, earlier when Lakeith calls someone (because he’s a telemarketer), it actually shows him and his desk dropping right in front of the person before he talks to him. Other sequences like the transitions are also filmed fantastically, really unique from any other directors. The dubbing of the white voices can be pretty messy most of the time. You do eventually get used to it and it’s not a big flaw, but it does stand out.
Sorry to Bother You is definitely not for everyone, it’s weird, it’s not subtle, and maybe it covers a little too much thematically. However, it worked well for me, with the cast all doing a wonderful job, and Boots Reilly’s writing and direction being really something else. You just can’t compare Sorry to Bother You to any other film, and it’s one of my favourites of the year. Reilly has clearly proven his talent as a writer and behind the camera, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of his film work.