Sorry to Bother You will wind up being one of the weirdest movies of the year. The directorial debut of Boots Riley, the film is a social satire that gets in your face and doesn’t leave until the credits start—and even then, you’ll be too flabbergasted by what you’ve just witnessed that its effects will linger. You’ll be thinking about this one for a long time, I believe. Despite its passive title, it definitely wants to bother you.
The film follows Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a man with a name as subtle as much of the movie, who begins working for a telemarketing company in hopes of making some money. He’s dating an artist-slash-activist, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), lives in the garage of his uncle (Terry Crews), and is barely scraping by. Saying any more about the plot would do a disservice to this movie. I’m serious; you want to go in as blind as possible and let the film wash over you. It gets so much weirder than you can imagine, trust me. It takes place in a similar universe to our own but with several key differences.
What it does is use these differences—key cultural touchstones, certain interactions between people, brands, etc.—to highlight aspects of our own lives in order to make a point about them. It further drives those points home with the direction the plot takes. Again, I won’t spoil it, but capitalism, race relations, politics, selling out, and ambition, among other things, all get touched upon. And by touched upon, I mean “thrown in your face with the gentleness of a sledgehammer blow.” This is the type of movie where the most popular in-universe TV show sees people get punched in the face as its entire premise.
And, yeah, it’s also just really weird. That’s especially true of its final act, which is going to be where it loses some of the viewers it didn’t chase off with its earlier touchy-but-not-too-strange points. But while it may not necessarily fit in a literal fashion, the themes at play are still effective. And, yeah, simply seeing something this odd on the screen is kind of worth it regardless of whether or not it all “works.”
That’s true of at least a decent portion of Sorry to Bother You, actually. It might not be completely coherent and cohesive when all’s said and done, but the themes and points still shine through and what you’ve seen is unlike almost anything else you’ve seen before. New experiences, even ones like this one that that have the potential to make you uncomfortable, are worth the investment.
Sorry to Bother You is an ambitious work of art from someone making the transition from music to film. While there may be some rough patches, it always has a goal in mind and for the most part is able to get its points across to its viewers, even if it’s not always the most cohesive creation. It’ll make lots of people uncomfortable and might eventually get too weird for others, but it’s one of the best films of 2018 as far as I’m concerned. This is the type of movie that worms its way into your brain and doesn’t leave for weeks after. I can’t wait to see what Boots Riley does next.
Conclusion: Sorry to Bother You might not always make sense, but it’s a heck of a sight to behold and think about.
Recommendation: Watch Sorry to Bother You.