In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a universe of greed.
Every so often a film comes along that leaves you speechless, and ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is the first in a long time, perhaps even since last year’s ‘Get Out’. This is an absolutely bonkers piece of work, utterly inventive and wickedly satirical in its story of a telemarketer who finds himself moving up through the ranks when he learns to use his ‘white voice’. The film is written and directed by Boots Riley, a rapper turned filmmaker and its an impressive debut, with shades of Michel Gondry in the visual style and Spike Jonze in the outrageously original concept. It stars Lakeith Stanfield as the central character, and it has one of the best supporting performances of the year from Armie Hammer as a charming CEO who features in many of the film’s best scenes.
Cassius ‘Cash’ Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is an unemployed man who lives in his uncle’s garage with his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), when he manages to secure a low paying job at RegalView, a telemarketing company. After a difficult start, an old co-worker (Danny Glover) suggests he uses his ‘white voice’ to help achieve more sales, and soon Cash discovers this hidden talent leads to promotions, more money and access to the higher echelons of the company in his new status as a ‘power caller’. As he moves up the ranks, Cash has to choose between making money or joining his activist friends to fight against the poor working conditions for those lower down the chain. I loved the way the film was put together, from the surreal nature of the ‘calls’ Cash is on (where it depicts him speaking face to face with the customers) and the use of David Cross’s dulcet tones to represent Cash’s ‘white voice’. The filmmaking is totally surreal and over the top, but it doesn’t mask the biting undercurrent that runs through the film and the narrative makes many salient points about capitalism and our society as it is today. Lakeith Stanfield is a real star in the making (likely known to most as Darius in TV’s ‘Atlanta’) and he’s a perfect casting choice for the oblivious Cash, a man who not so much drives his upward trajectory as he is swept up in the machinations of others.
‘Sorry to Bother You’ is outrageously funny, absolutely batshit crazy and your opinion on it will likely be determined by whether you are prepared to go along for the ride or not. It gets more absurd as it goes on, and it won’t be for everyone, but I thought this was a fiercely original piece of work and I thought it was terrific!
Directed By: Boots Riley
Starring: LaKeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Danny Glover, Terry Crews, David Cross, Patton Oswalt, Lily James, Steven Yeun, Armie Hammer, Kate Berlant, Forest Whitaker and Rosario Dawson