Telemarketers aren’t really sorry to bother you and rapper-turned-writer/director Boots Riley surely isn’t sorry if anything in his debut feature rubs you up the wrong way. It’s an unabashed provocation, rife with the ambition and tonal messiness of a first film. Riley has something to say and about 50 different ways to say it, and he attempts to cram them all into one movie.
‘Sorry to Bother You’ isn’t subtle, starting with the name of its hero, Cassius ‘Cash’ Green (Lakeith Stanfield). The opening scenes burden Cash with problems: no money, living in his uncle’s garage, driving a junkheap of a car, lacking any marketable skills. But once he manages to land a gig at a telemarketing firm, the movie unveils its satirical edge when he finds success by employing his ‘white voice’ (actually overdubbed by David Cross). He’s soon climbing the corporate ladder at speed. While his underpaid co-workers foment a strike, Cash becomes upwardly mobile, enjoying the rewards and ignoring the corruption and accusations of selling out.
The satirical devil is in the odd, amusing details, through which Riley makes his points. By its end, ‘Sorry to Bother You’ spins into full-blown science-fiction, and if Riley never quite strikes the balance between his topical concerns and bizarre flights of fancy, his conviction is powerful. This wildly original effort leaves you looking forward to him developing a discipline to match his imagination.