Insofar as villains go in our modern world, persistent telemarketers rank alongside unscrupulous real-estate developers. So hip-hop recording artist Boots Riley, front-man of the Coup, makes an ambitious debut as writer/director with his confrontational, absurdist, corporate satire. Set in Oakland, California, it’s about Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield), who gets caught faking credentials for a telemarketing position at RegalView but lands the job anyway. Continue reading…
Eager to move out of Uncle Sergio’s (Terry Crews) garage and into an apartment with his artsy, activist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), Cash struggles on the phone, respecting RegalView’s edict: “Stick to the script.”
But then, heeding the advice of his cubicle-mate Langston (Danny Glover), African-American Cash adopts a “white voice” (dubbed by David Cross), utilizing certain verbal tones, common phrases, and cultural references.
Suddenly, Cash closes so many deals that he’s promoted upstairs as one of the “Power Callers.” That’s an executive position with an upgrade in wardrobe, automobile, living conditions and a higher rung on the social ladder.
It also means escaping when Squeeze (Steven Yeun), another low-level telemarketer, tries to form a union to improve working conditions, pay and benefits.
Significantly, the only other employment open to Cash is at the WorryFree factory, where workers sign lifetime, multi-generational contracts in return for guaranteed on-site housing/food – a ‘slavery’ concept, inciting the ire of Left Eye, a protest group with which Detroit is involved.
But when Cash is invited to a swanky party hosted by the company’s coked-out CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), he’s faced with sacrificing his morality/conscience, encountering an insidiously surreal choice, involving “beautiful perversions” – a.k.a. Equesapiens.
Boots Riley joins the ranks of innovative black filmmakers gaining recognition in Hollywood, like Dee Rees (Mudbound), Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle in Time, Selma, 13th), Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Jordan Peele (Get Out), and Spike Lee, whose Black KkKlansman is set for August.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Sorry to Bother You is a chaotic, ambitious 8, a potent, politically-charged parable