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Friday, July 6, 2018

QUICK TAKE: Sorry to Bother You

The Buzz: Critics have been talking about Sorry to Bother You since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of this year, dubbing it "bonkers" and akin to something from the mind of Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mood Indigo). The writer-director is none other than The Coup's activist and artist Boots Riley, who spent years after penning the script pulling the project together for his directorial debut. After its successful screening at the festival, award circuit powerhouse Annapurna Pictures bought distribution rights to the film, so it's likely we'll see heavy award season campaigning for the film come fall. Sorry to Bother You also has a fairly buzz-worthy cast in LaKeith Stanfield, fresh off of Atlanta season 2 and last year's Get Out, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Terry Crews, and Armie Hammer. 

What's Great About the Movie: Sorry to Bother You is hard to pin down or even explain - it's dark satire, anti-capitalist, dystopian, surrealist, philosophical, ambitious and fantastical. And that's what makes its so compelling. Watching it, I was reminded most of last year's Okja, both in the fantasy elements and the messaging of the story (and I guess also, coincidentally, because Steven Yeun is in both). The film stars Stanfield as Cassius Green (as in, yes, Cash is Green), who lives in his cousin's garage and starts working at a telemarketing company to make rent. Green quickly learns that using his "white voice" (David Cross) yields him greater success in the business world, but as he moves up in the corporate ranks, he leaves his friends and co-workers behind on the picket lines as they fight for fair wages. Stanfield's subdued and subtle performance works well, but I'd argue Thompson's portrayal as his girlfriend, Detroit, is the highlight performance of the film. Above all else though, the heart of this film is its totally original, captivating script. 

What's Not-So-Great About the Movie: The pacing and editing is a little uneven - we get half of a more standard sort of movie in a world that looks a lot like ours, and then about halfway through the film things go completely off the rails and veer into the more surreal and absurdist category. That back half was my favorite part, but its intrusion won't be for everyone. 

Final Verdict: This is one of the most fresh and unique films I've seen in some time, from the small details (like Tessa Thompson's earrings) to the larger ones, such as the film's take on Capitalist Tech companies (Amazon, Google, Facebook - insert any of these companies here) that purport to offer everything to its employees, but ultimately treat its workers like cattle. 

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