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‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a clever and timely film 

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2018 at 17:19

‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a dark satire about labor, race, and class in the near future. It has some clever scenes and near misses. Unfortunately, too many story lines and scenes add nothing to the major themes, characters, or moral of the story. 

Lakeith Stanfield plays Cassius Green, a desperate unemployed man in Oakland, CA who needs to pay his back rent and help his uncle keep his house. Sadly, the only work he can get is at a telemarketing firm.  With a little help from a co-worker played by Danny Glover, Cassius becomes a ‘power caller’ and that leads him to a moral conflict between his own needs and the needs of his coworkers he has left behind to go ‘upstairs.’ 

The film wants us to see how horrible the future is and how desperate workers are. It succeeds, but then tacks on scenes that are abusive and add nothing to the film and are in fact, off-putting. In one recurring vignette, we see people slapped, punched and beaten in a future game show. In another, we watch as people in an audience throw blood and cell phones at Tessa Thompson’s character Detroit. The scenes aren’t revelatory, edgy, or clever. The adage, “It’s best not to become the monsters we criticize” comes to mind here. 

These scenes are abusive in a way that Riley is trying to point out society is. The “using abuse to point out abuse” is far too often a replacement for good writing. It is reminiscent of “Natural Born Killers.” After the Oliver Stone film is nearly over and the audience already gets that the media is fueling the violence, he had to do one more over the top scene to nail it down. It’s an insult to, and an assault on, the audience. Fortunately, Director Riley doesn’t quite get to this level, but it’s still a waste of the audience’s time, especially since the film had already made its point in an interesting manner. 

The acting is good from top to bottom, including Armie Hammer as a megalomaniacal high-tech industrialist. Combine Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Bezos (Amazon) into one psychopathic capitalist and you get close to Steve Lift, the owner of the employment agency, ‘Worry Free.’  Tessa Thompson plays the activist girlfriend of Cassius, Detroit. She is a force of her own and Tessa Thompson lives up to her billing here. Lakeith Stanfield is good as Cassius, but too often his expressions are one dimensional. He is a compelling comedic talent, however, and is often hilarious in the film. 

The story is interesting, but the film looks unprofessional, like a college project. From the sets to the camera work, to the edits and lighting, it looks flat and doesn’t match the visual quality of other indie films in the past year. Still, it’s entertaining and clever and a decent directorial debut, and the soundtrack is worth a listen. 

Rating: Matinee

‘Sorry to Bother You’ is a good debut. I hope to see more from Mr. Riley and the rest of the cast.

Tex Shelters