In a time where political commentary can be about as subtle as an infant president balloon flying over Big friggin Ben, Boots Riley has stepped up to the bat with a relevant film that's far deeper and far weirder than we deserve. Sorry to Bother You is the kind of dystopia that can almost feel too real, despite, and maybe because of the absolute absurdities portrayed. Cassius Green, played here by a subdued yet moving Lakeith Stanfield, ends up taking a job at a phone bank to impress Detroit, his fiancé (and not the Motor City). Brought to life by Tessa Thompson, the mercurial relationship between Detroit and Green is electric and muted all at once, largely due to the chemistry between the actors.
What starts off straightforward is then throttled down twisting bends by writer-director Boots Riley, who weaves bombast and whimsy without compromise in a movie that almost sticks the landing. What leads Cassius into discovering his “white voice” builds into the most ridiculous corporate ladder conflict since that one reality show hosted by that one United States president (not to mention its “Celebrity” spinoff). For a first feature, Boots appears brimming with the confidence and bravado of someone who found maturity without killing off a youthful urgency. There is a passionate life to his work, which helps explain some of the fatigue rearing its head during the occasional lull. While these moments offer tender reality to the bizarre dreamscape that surrounds the characters, they don't quite feel at home nestled between grand stages of strife and insanity. Still, the overall production is an exhilarating mindfreak.
Boots has managed to elevate the “black” in Black Mirror, with an alternate existence that uncomfortably mirrors the insecurities of our own. Sorry to Bother You brings in a wealth of fantastic performances in support of Tessa and Lakeith, where Danny Glover, in particular, is having the time of his life. Despite a few tempo missteps and disjoints, Boots Riley has come forward with one of the most necessary, warped films of the year.
I give this film a 9 out of 10.
Joe Brueggemeyer hosts and edits The Marquee podcast with Logan, and has an unhealthy obsession with baking.