It’s festival time! To kick off proceedings is the debut from rapper and activist Boots Riley that’s been making heavy waves across the Atlantic…
I’m going to be completely upfront and honest here, after having seen Sorry To Bother You it’s proven nigh on impossible to actually get anything down about this film. It’s so vivid in my memory yet moves with such a pace that there’s no easy foothold to start from when discussing this film.
Reading that back, this should be a frustrating experience. The thing is, like watching the film itself I’m having so much fun recounting bits and pieces of the film that it’s genuinely giving me a not insubstantial amount of joy.
At its core, Sorry To Bother You is the story of an African-American guy who gets a job in a telemarketing call centre, and rises through the ranks after discovering his “White Voice” gets him more sales than his natural timbre. The thing is, that description alone does the whole thing a disservice, and there are so many moving parts that gel so seamlessly together that to focus on that one part doesn’t do justice to the rest of the film.
For fear of descending into spoiler territory, the synopsis above hints at the political message that Sorry To Bother You is aiming to share. And make no mistake, this is a political film – as Riley himself was keen to explain in his post-showing Q&A, films with a political message in every shape and size is set to be a mainstay of this festival. The end result here is a funny, scary, sad and at times downright confusing film, that takes its premise to a conclusion that very few would see coming.
It’s a film that wouldn’t have gone down half as convincingly without a good cast to sell the premise, and thankfully we have Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson to help us through it. Thompson is already a star in her own right by now, and after Get Out and Atlanta, Stanfield is making a really interesting name for himself too. A shout-out is deserved here too for Armie Hammer, whose take on a Jeff Bezos style magnate is both deeply disturbing and hilarious to watch once the film finds its way towards a third act that I absolutely will not get into here.
There have been articles and discussions about this film that have called Sorry To Bother You genre-defying or similar. In fact, the director readily admits that this is a film of no set genre, and that to have planned with that in mind would have hampered the film overall. There’s no denying that allowing this movie the space and time to take from different styles and themes gives the whole thing a freshness and uniqueness, and Boots Riley’s refusal to constrain the film to one type of story definitely works to its benefit.
Most of all, Sorry To Bother You feels like a film that should be seen by as many people as possible. It’s definitely not a film designed to please crowds and never apologises for that, but given the current state of affairs and parallels between events in this movie with certain public figures calling for the abolishment of certain amendments to certain countries’ constitutions, there’s a strange sense of prescience about the whole thing.
For the sake of civilised society I hope that reality isn’t going the way of life in Sorry To Bother You, but if it means having Riley call the shots more often I can’t deny that it’d be an entertaining prospect. Hell, it’d certainly be a much more vibrant affair.