Sorry to Bother You


Sorry to Bother You ★ 1/2

A huge hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, this debut film from rapper Boots Riley has a lot to say—almost too much. Still, when he hits his targets, Riley’s voice is hard to ignore. Beginning as an anti-capitalist satire focused on the working class struggling to make ends meet, the movie eventually makes an unexpected swerve into the surreal. It’s a subversive cocktail that recalls the work of Melvin Van Peebles, the maverick filmmaker behind 1970’s Watermelon Man, a comedy about a white racist who wakes up one morning to find he’s turned black. Lakeith Stanfield (from Get Out and FX’s Atlanta) finally lands his breakout role as Cassius “Cash” Green. Drowning in debt and living in his uncle’s garage with his artist girlfriend (Tessa Thompson), Cash takes a job at a shady telemarketing center, where he falls under the tutelage of Langston (Danny Glover), an old-timer who encourages him to discover his inner “white voice” when speaking to the potential marks he cold-calls. Comedian David Cross overdubs Stanfield during much of the film’s running time, and Cash’s new diction propels him to set sales records. Leaving his co-workers behind just when they are attempting to unionize, he moves to the upper office for a big payday. Making calls for WorryFree, his firm’s parent company, Cash pitches jobs to the underclass that effectively makes them slaves to coke-addled CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer). Things only get stranger from there, and while not all of it works, Riley is a subversive voice we’d do well to hear from again. (At Boston Common, Fenway, Seaport, Somerville and in the suburbs.)

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