SORRY TO BOTHER YOU: When a young, down-on-his-luck, living in his uncle’s (Terry Crews) garage, behind in his rent black guy (Lakeith Stanfield) desperately takes a job as a telemarketer pitching encyclopedias, his initial calls are an endless stream of hang-ups that hilariously depict how intrusive his profession really is. But his fortunes take a significant upturn when he follows the advice of a veteran co-worker (Danny Glover) and uses a “white voice” (actually voiced by white comedian David Cross) to generate massive sales. Moral complications ensue when his success begins to jeopardize his relationships with workplace associates attempting to unionize as well as with his “performance artist” girlfriend (Tessa Thompson). But just when you think you’re about to venture into the territory of labor relations and racial identity, director/writer Boots Riley’s (See CLOSING CREDITS.) screenplay ventures into positively Swiftian social satire when Stanfield (TV’s “Atlanta”) is elevated to the status of “power caller” on behalf of a company that literally wants to transform its employees into workhorses. Revealing anything further would ruin the absurdist path that the movie takes. What I will say is that if you process what you see in a literal sense, then the revelatory portion of this storyline will have you scratching your head wondering “WTF just happened here?”. However, realizing that it’s audaciously ambitious social parody in the abstract will allow you to appreciate it for the highly original, very scathing commentary on capitalism and conspicuous consumption that it is. Not all of the sequences hit their mark (Like Thompson’s stylized “performance” where she’s pelted with various nasty liquids.) but most of them do (Like Stanfield’s futile attempt to “freestyle” before a white audience convinced that he can do it “because he’s black”.) and I’ll at least give Riley a “pass” on his misfires which are uncompromising in their willingness to take a creative risk. Because of its’ unique twists and turns, the movie will most assuredly be compared with GET OUT (Which co-starred Stanfield) which was derivative and slightly overrated. But if this isn’t the most original comedy of the year, it’s definitely the craziest and most twisted one by far. And in this instance, that’s a good thing.
CRITIC’S GRADE: B+
CLOSING CREDITS: Rookie filmmaker Boots Riley, whose real name is Raymond Lawrence Riley, grew up as the son of political activists who moved from Chicago to Oakland (Which is the setting for SORRY.) when he was six. His grandmother ran the Oakland Ensemble Theater and Riley had a long career as a rapper with his group called The Coup which is a self-described revolutionary music collective that’s featured on the soundtrack of the film. To write the movie’s screenplay, Riley drew on his own experiences as a “telefundraiser” for a homeless shelter in Los Angeles where he found success by convincing white suburbanites that money was needed to move “down and outers” away from their particular area or neighborhoods to the downtown section further away.