Sorry to Bother You

Boots Riley. What a name. What a director. No, really. I didn't have the chance to review "Sorry to Bother You" at Sundance, but its upcoming release this Friday has me thinking that this ambitious, wild movie deserves some praise on print. This being Riley's first feature, an outrageous vision of political and societal resonance, "Sorry to Bother You" can be quite a mess at times, but that's part of its madcap brilliance. Riley has his young, unemployed Oakland protagonist Cassius ("Atlanta" scene-sealer Lakeith Stanfield), living with his girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), an artist, political activist, in his uncle’s minimalist garage. There literally is no room in there for more than two people. Cassius' luck changes when he gets a job as telemarketer for a company that wants him to be white on the phone, or at lest that's what his cubicle neighbor (Danny Glover) tells him. Use your “white voice” Glover exclaims in a small but hilariously on-point performance. And then, suddenly, Cassius becomes successful. The white voice works. He's promoted to the higher ranks of the company, a higher-echelon-ed firm, where he sells contracts for hire. His success is so pronounced that he is given a jazzy condo, but not without alienating his activist girlfriend in the process, especially after Cassius is introduced to a controversial tech billionaire (Armie Hammer having the time of his life here). Activism, art, the media and racism are front and center as Riley invents his own kind of genre, one I truly haven't seen before or as The New Yorker's Richard Brody recently called it: "social-science fiction." "Sorry to Bother You" is Boots Riley's own brand of gonzo filmmaking. Bless its rebellious heart. [B+]