That was the best possible way to describe my reaction to Sorry to Bother You. It is completely bizarre, original, and balls to the wall. Yet, it’s still super brilliant. Sorry to Bother You is brilliant because it manages to be both scathing and sharply hilarious. This is a masterpiece that I’ll be thinking about for quite some time.
Sorry to Bother You follows the story of Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a broke individual who lands a job at a telemarketing agency. Looking to get ahead in the industry, he discovers a secret to finding success: By speaking in his “white voice.” Using his “white voice” (voiced by David Cross) helps him get promoted to being a “Power Caller” and he achieves financial success beyond his wildest dreams. He also catches the attention of Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), a power hungry CEO of a company that is a client of Cassius’ agency. However, he ends up abandoning his morals and his relationship with his artist fiancee Detroit (Tessa Thompson) becomes strained.
The plot point involving Cassius using his “white voice” to climb the social and economic ladder serves as a genius metaphor. It’s a perfect demonstration of how African Americans are forced to adapt into white culture in order to get ahead, losing their sense of self in the process. Also, while Cassius’ fellow workers are taking a stand against their company for fairer pay and better working conditions, Cassius ends up benefitting from the system they are rallying against. At that point is where the film delves into the themes of capitalism and slave labor. Things start to get even crazier for reasons that won’t be spoiled because it’s best for you guys to be surprised.
As for the actor playing our main protagonist, Lakeith Stanfield is tremendous. Ever since he quietly stole the show in Short Term 12, he’s been churning out a slew of scene-stealing supporting performances in films like Dope and Get Out. Well now, he gets to graduate into leading-man status and easily knocks it out of the park. He brilliantly showcases how Cassius corrupts his morals to build a better life for himself before understanding the circumstances of his decisions and he does it through the sole use of his eyes. He manages to be in sync with the film’s off-kilter nature while still showcasing subtle dramatic beats. This is easily the best performance he’s given. Now, let’s see him carry more pictures.
While this is a starring vehicle for Lakeith Stanfield, he still has a stellar supporting cast surrounding him. One standout in particular is the always reliable Tessa Thompson as Detroit, a determined artist with a vocal voice who eventually uses her own “white voice” to further her artistic practices. There’s also Armie Hammer as Steve Lift. After delivering a refined, career-best performance in Call Me By Your Name, Hammer gets to deliver a portrayal of a shrewd businessman that is unhinged and completely unpredictable. He also gets to snort a big line of cocaine in a sarong. That scene alone is worth the price of admission.
Bizarre, razor sharp, and uncomfortably hilarious all at once, Sorry to Bother You is an unforgettable film watching experience. Writer/director Boots Riley has announced himself as an exciting new cinematic voice and one has to wonder what he has up his sleeve next.