Head down, sleeping in a garage, living paycheck to paycheck: each of these are common narratives in both modern films and television shows. This is also the lifestyle of Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) in the satirical film “Sorry To Bother You.” “Sorry To Bother You” carries twisted humor through a storyline chronicling sequences that are strange yet familiar in some of the most demented of ways. Director Boots Riley encapsulates his morbid curiosity to capture some of the darkest realities in a playful world of surreal landscapes.
“Stick to the script” are the four words that Cassius is overwhelmingly commanded to live by in order to best find success in his new telemarketing job for the company Regal View. Those four words are also what lead Cassius to relocate his focuses on gathering material possessions and living a lifestyle that does not comply with the desires of those who have been placed in similar situations through the hierarchy in his environment. In doing so, he learns to evolve his tone into what the film refers to as his “white-voice” and does not shy away from the truth in the matter. Riley also uses this to point toward the capitalistic nature found in companies throughout our nation.
The film itself is anything but stuffy pompous filmmaking –– it breathes with a cartoonish elegance that triggers relieving enthusiasm. “Sorry To Bother You” mimiks the message which its predecessor “Get Out” sets out to evoke within audiences. Riley takes some of the thematic elements which “Get Out” used, and implements them in order to drive the narrative. But, he models the film in a more intense and overwhelming way. For instance, Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), is much like Dean Armitage (aka, crazy dad in “Get Out”), in the sense that both have a similar desire to make use of black males bodies in order to fulfill twisted fantasies. However, Riley takes a quirkier approach and takes a more absurd route in employing a plot twist that creates a bifurcated world, landing the film a spot in the science fiction realm.
When talking about the man of the hour himself, Lakeith Stanfield, it’s crucial to reflect on his past performances. In the aforementioned “Get Out,” he plays a character who is under a demented mind state inflicted by the “sunken place.” In the television show “Atlanta,” created by Donald Glover, Stanfield’s character Darius is constantly spitting words of wisdom and plays his role so effortlessly –– it is clear that Stanfield has proved himself perfect for his latest role. Cassius is conflicted and roams through the movie in revelatory form. His facial expressions are priceless. Stanfield intensifies the physical elements that go into the acting in this film. Throughout the movie so many of the sequences are cartoonish, watching Stanfield fool around in a geekish way completes the films aesthetic. It’s like watching “The Flintstones” and Cassius is Fred Flintstone, scoundering clumsily through everyday life in hopes to just make it to see another morning.
His counterpart, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), walks around clad in flashy homemade earrings with an Afropunk aesthetic in each one of her outfits. In everything she does, Detroit embodies a bright and artistic demeanor. She even stunts a splendid tee shirt that says “Female Ejaculation Is The Future.” Seeing the way Armie Hammer’s character, Steve Lift, makes a nonsensical agreement with Cassius makes me think to myself, “This is probably what one of those secret conversations between Donald Trump and Kanye West would sound like.” But, I digress. Hammer’s demented portrayal combined with Stanfield’s lithe presence make an engaging sequence in the film.
“Sorry To Bother You” displays a socially stirring subject matter that aims to send out an important message. In doing this, the film also includes wonderful characters and startling plot loops. Riley’s ability to share a perspective on the world in such a comedic manner with a compelling storyline lands him a wonderful directorial debut. The humor is crude but also, many times, accurate. Quite frankly, if you are offended, you may either be racist or very unaware. Sure, the last 15 minutes of the film are chaotic and slightly rushed, but that is overpowered by what the rest of the film has to offer: a reminder that one person’s fiction may very well be another person’s real life horror story.