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Sorry to Bother You (2018), directed by Boots Riley

I did just review someone's first feature when reviewing Spectral, and it's fair to say that there's an obvious difference in talent levels between Nic Mathieu and Boots Riley. It's always nice to walk into a theater and watch something unique, which is exactly what this film is. The premise is actually quite simple even though things get complicated as the film goes on, both of which are pleasant surprises in their own way. The effort and vision given here is worth seeing for yourself, but if you're reading this thread and this review, you've either already seen this film, want my input, or just don't care one way or another. I'll give you my input, this is a film with a new leading actor, with Lakeith Stanfield finally jumping up to that level. It's a movie with some crazy shit, with things that you wouldn't expect, that goes super outlandish at some points. This is also a film with a message about capitalism, about the things that are expected from black folks, and about selling out. This is a film worth seeing, even if it turns out that you don't like it, there's a hell of a lot here to think about. I am definitely looking forward to Riley's next attempt, should there be one. Most stunning is that Riley says this film cost $3,200,000 to film. You can't tell!

This film takes place in Oakland, an alternative reality version of it anyway, but it's still Oakland. Not to the same extent as other small budget films, though. There's a hell of a lot to this movie, but I'm not going to spoil every single thing this time as some of it is impossible to describe. In this version of Oakland, Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) lives in his uncle's (Terry Crews) garage. He's struggling as hard as someone can be struggling without being homeless. His girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) loves him, but it's still hard times for our man Cassius. The only job he can find is working as a telemarketer, which is where his friend Sal (Jermaine Fowler) works as well. In a humorous scene where Cassius gets the job, it is made clear that anyone can get those jobs. Also, Cassius' uncle is going to lose his house, cause shit is real tough out there. Unfortunately, this role is a bit part and Terry Crews doesn't say much. Cassius has a hard time selling bullshit to customers, but one day he's seated next to Langston (Danny Glover), who tells Cassius that what he really needs to do is adopt a white voice. That way he'll sell some shit, that way he'll get paid, and that way he won't be struggling so badly.

To set up the rest of the film, here's how Oakland is an alternate version of our current reality. There's a company called WorryFree, run by Steve Lift (Armie Hammer). WorryFree is a company that offers a life where you get free food and lodging, the company ensures that you don't have to pay your bills, but you work for them for the rest of your life. In this reality, it is ruled that this business practice is not equivalent to slavery and therefore totally legal. There's also a group of people who are fervently against WorryFree, called "The Left Eye". Detroit is a member, by the way. Cassius has members of his company, RegalView, attempting to create a union for telemarketers, the main ringleader being Squeeze (Steven Yeun). Lastly, there's an elevator in the building and numerous rumors about the best telemarketer becoming a Power Caller. What the hell's a Power Caller? You're gonna have to watch the movie for more of that because I've spoiled enough and would like to move on. The only thing we know about the elevator at the start, is that Mr. Eyepatch (Omari Hardwick) goes up there every day. I have no idea if that's supposed to be his name in the film, but he's unnamed. The most popular show of the time is also one where people get punched over and over again in the face.

Four characters in this film have "white voice," and I will list three of them in the following line. Cash's white voice is played by David Cross, Mr. Eyepatch's is Patton Oswalt, and Langston's is played by a sound engineer who sounds like Steve Buscemi. I don't want to reveal the last one because that's no fun and I've already spoiled and will spoil lots of other things. This is a film with lots of different messages, some of which are well told and well executed, but the director's vision goes so crazy towards the end of the film that I was left to hope it would end a minute or two sooner. Some things are better left filmed and left at the director's house for their own amusement. Others, on the other hand, are totally cool and necessary to show people, even though I'm convinced this film would have been near a Best Picture nominee without them. Again, those are okay though! There are so many good gags in this film and I was laughing constantly, even at one or two that nobody else laughed at and therefore I probably shouldn't have. I was the only white guy in the theater, and no, I didn't laugh at Cassius rapping at the party. I did think that was an excellent scene.

This movie is super ambitious, but the third act may have been too ambitious even though I enjoyed it. Admittedly, the film does turn into a mess. But that's not really what I want to talk about and to describe it would take up numerous paragraphs, but the messaging is more worthy of my time. I took some time to think about this film before writing down anything, and I think the first thing to point out is that this is a commentary on the current state of America as much as it's a fantasy. The idea that someone gets further in life by acting "less black" is a very accurate commentary, there are numerous instances in the film that show obstacles that are put in place of minorities. The film isn't trying to tell people that black folks have to put on a white voice to get up the ladder, but that people have to conform and act a certain way to be successful. Is that right? Well, no, not really. It simply is what it is. Of course, some people will ignore this message and focus on something different than that. The overall point is indisputable though, in order to succeed in a big business workplace, you must conform to the people who run that workplace, i.e. older white folks.

Another commentary throughout the film is one on capitalism, as well as our ability to do something about it even though we don't have the desire to do so at this time. When I say we, I mean pretty much everyone who does the things Cassius does in this film. Once Cassius does something about it, it's funny to see the results of that, but some of the surrealism of the film takes away from those moments. Still, the lengths people will go to in order to make a buck, it's too much sometimes. There are other things in this film, such as riffs on our prison system and art, but you know, those things create too much plot to be closed in any kind of definitive way. That's what I'm saying about the third act. That stuff is funny, but it detracts from the rest of the film and goes a little too far. It's too ambitious. Now, some other ambitious things really come off. As in this film's trailer, the scenes where Cassius drops down into the living room of people who answer his phone calls are all really good. I don't know if I've seen something like that before. There's another where Cassius moves into a new pad and the fixtures of his old one come apart to reveal the new. These are pretty cool.

Of course, the third act is ambitious to the point of being total nonsense, but I laughed at the way one of our film's characters suddenly become woke due to the ridiculous things they see. Is this also a social commentary? I genuinely don't know, but for some people it takes them seeing a cop walk up to an innocent and shoot them in the head for those people to realize police officers have a problem, so maybe it is a social commentary on those kinds of people. This isn't as good a film as Get Out, which succeeds because it keeps things so much more to the point, and it also conforms to genre norms. This, on the other hand, does not. It's one of the most ridiculous movies I've ever seen, it's also super inspired and detailed, in some cases to the point of being overboard. I would be surprised if any film the rest of the year was as provocative as this one, which ultimately renders some of my complaints totally irrelevant. Isn't a film being provocative exactly what they need. So what if this thing misses from time to time, overall it's really funny and had me thinking a lot.


2018 films ranked

1. Sorry to Bother You
2. Sicario
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Spoiler: show
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Franmil Reyes, OF
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Jose Peraza, 2b/SS
2019 Keeper Cost: Round 20 - Year 1
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Anthony Rizzo, 1b
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I'd prefer not moving him until potentially the off-season, but if the price is right I could be tempted to move him.
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