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 coming Friday has me thinking 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 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 is promoted to the higher ranks of the company, a higher-echelon-ed firm that represents it, where he sells contracts for hire. His success is so pronounced that he is given a high-level 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).
Trust me, whatever the plot description I have given may sound like, the film gets crazier as Riley pushes it much further, piling subplot after subplot until the film damn-near collapses in its final frame. Activism, art, the media and the country's racism are front and center here as the director has a lot to say, maybe too much, but subsequently succeeds in giving us a movie that will most likely last. Riley invents his own kind of genre, one I truly haven't seen before or as Richard Brody recently called it "social-science fiction." In other words, "Sorry to Bother You" is Boots Riley's own brand of resistance. Bless his rebellious heart. [B+]