Every once in a while a film comes along that is so electrifying it feels like the director is holding your eyes open, Ludovico style, to make sure you don’t miss a frame. Sorry to Bother You, the feature debut of rapper and activist Boots Riley, is one of those films.
Comparisons to Get Out are inevitable, but they do Sorry to Bother You a disservice. Where Jordan Peele used a scalpel to get his message across, Riley opts for a neon sledgehammer. The film starts off as a modern-day update to Brazil, with its sights firmly set on the insidiousness of the gig economy, but by the third act it’s passed straight through Pythonesque and feels like nothing so much as a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life.
It’s clear that Riley has a lot on his mind, from America’s delusions about being a “post-racial society” to the soul-sapping nature of reality TV, and he gets it all on screen. Certain scenes can’t help but feel a tad overstuffed or underdeveloped as a result, but thanks to Riley’s almost manic direction, the film as a whole is never less than riveting.
There are great performances throughout, from bit parts by the likes of Terry Crews and Danny Glover, to the great Tessa Thompson as performance artist Detroit – but Lakeith Stanfield owns the movie from the opening shot. He’s a superb comic actor and a relatable everyman, trying his damnedest to do the right thing in a world that pushes him to sell out at every turn.
Sorry to Bother You is an insane piece of social satire for an era that’s losing its mind in real time, and it’s one of the best films of 2018.
CAST: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick
DIRECTOR: Boots Riley
WRITER: Boots Riley
SYNOPSIS: In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a universe of greed.