Rating: 4 out of 5 (excellent)
In an alternate depiction of Oakland, California, struggling African American Cassius Green (Lakeith Standfield) lands a telemarketing job where he discovers his ability to project a white voice to customers.
Nicknamed ‘Cash Green’, Cassius Green’s rise from lowly telemarketer to peddler of slave labour unveils the nature of capitalism. At its worst capitalism is a god demanding the sacrifice of the poor and the weak while revelling in its own excesses. From self-motivational nonsense spewed by mangers to the evangelical quest for profit extolled by CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), capitalism never stops demanding more.
Cassius Green’s own position in Sorry to Bother you splits between race and capitalism. Sadly Sorry to Bother you’s commentary about race is blotted out by director Boots Riley’s focus on the cost of neo-liberalism. Yet Cassius’ rise to a power caller among telemarketers is an indication of what African Americans sacrifice to succeed. They must jettison their identity and become a safe caricature to their white compatriots much like Get Out’s plot.
Sorry to Bother you’s plot problematically dissolves into an erratic series of fits and starts, but its conclusion is an uncomfortable vision of where our profit driven culture will lead to. Plenty of jokes appear in the film, but Sorry to Bother you is far from the dark comedy sold by its trailers. The film’s latter half discards all humour and becomes a grim spectacle to behold. Sorry to Bother you will be supped upon by film academics, but viewers should be wary that it diverges from its own advertisements while playing loose with traditional narratives. Moreover many of the jokes within Sorry to Bother you are scathingly quick and can only be appreciated by viewers who have suffered dead-end office jobs.
The most important question asked in Sorry to Bother you is whether art is a conduit for social change or if it is just another commodity. This query unfolds through Cassius’ girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), a radical artist who lambasts capitalism. Detroit’s Banksy inspired graffiti defaces the adverts of mega company WorryFree, who run a series of work houses for the poor. Cassius later finds one of Detroit’s works within the house of Worry Free’s own CEO Steve Lift, now ripped from a wall and framed in gold. Detroit derides Cassius for losing his own identity and helping WorryFree sell slave labour, yet she too uses a white voice to narrate her exhibition, diminishing her message against exploitation.
An unpolished art-house attack on our modern times, Sorry to Bother you has its problems, but it will make viewers see uncomfortable realities long unaddressed.
By Saul Shimmin
For the trailer, see below: