Ever wondered what would happen if you could change your voice to be more appealing to those on the other end of the phone? That is just one element to Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, the Sundance hit. A comedy that poses questions about the state of living, what art can be AND what a ‘white voice’ sounds like.
Cassius Green lives in his uncle’s garage with his experimental/performance artist girlfriend Detroit. He takes a basic job in telemarketing selling encyclopaedias and struggles to make any commission. He openly questions the meaning of life and how the sun will one day explode but he also really just needs to make money. He’s given a tip by his co-worker, if he wants to make any money at his job, he needs to use his ‘white voice’. He soon becomes a top seller and in the midst of a strike is promoted to be ‘Power Caller’. This opens up a whole new world for him but at the cost of his friendships, girlfriend, morals and dignity. But there is something even more disturbing and shady behind the corrupt company that sells slavery as life long contracts.
As part of the ‘LAUGH’ strand at the London Film Festival, it is of course a comedy first and foremost BUT it hangs on the edge of social and body horror. The latter genre may only be those who is adverse to seeing such films. But through it all, Riley is commentating on social issues, ridiculing and some exaggerations, all for comedic purposes. But for every joke, realism creeps through, making parts of the story all too real. There are so many comments on life in America right now and maybe even the future that at times, its difficult to catch up to what we should be paying attention to. Detroit’s gallery of wooden pieces of art representing Africa and her performance where she dons her own ‘white voice’ while she asks audience members to through bullets and blood at her is bizarre. Or the Power Caller offices and set up, to the ridiculous party hosted by manic CEO Steve Lift who literally forces Cassius to watch his ‘evil’ ludicrous plan in animated film form are all hilarious elements of a film that exposes the insane amount of wealth a few people have compared to the artists and activists that are fighting the power through protests and social media clips that go way beyond what they were actually meant for.
The cast are fantastic; each effortlessly fitting into the universe Riley has created. Lakeith Stanfield is perfect as the trouble minded Cassius, playing the character the right side of comedic and vulnerable. Tessa Thompson as the artist/activist also stands out as Detroit, someone who knows how things work and fighting for the right cause. Her earrings also deserve a special mention, as they are truly superb.
In creating a world that isn’t quite the same, as we know, the slightly alternative universe brings further to light issues that are taking place now allowing the satirical story to flow easily through to the rather strange and illuminating end. This is a film where you can most definitely believe the hype.
Dir: Boots Riley
Prd: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker, Charles D King, George Rush, Jonathan Duffy, Kelly Williams
Scr: Boots Riley
Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer, Terry Crews, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick
DoP: Doug Emmett
Music: Tune-Yards, The Coup
Running time:111 minutes