Movie review: 'Sorry to Bother You'

Brad Keefe

I was scheduled to see this week's big release, “Mission: Impossible - Fallout,” on Monday, but I had a pretty substantial conflict and couldn't make the screening. Thanks, Radiohead. (See Andy Downing's review on page 16. I made the right choice.)

Instead I'm going to take the opportunity to talk about one of the funniest, sharpest and definitely, definitely weirdest releases of this summer.

I came out of a first viewing of writer-director Boots Riley's “Sorry to Bother You” with one overarching thought:That was amazing, but how the hell did it get made?

It was not a short road. Riley wrote the screenplay (inspired by his own time as a telemarketer) in 2012, and, with no way to get the film made, recorded an album inspired by it with his group, The Coup.

Now, in 2018, it's an onscreen reality. A wonderful, visionary, timely and (did I mention?) so gloriously weird reality.

“Sorry to Bother You” follows Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a young resident of an alternative-present-day Oakland.

Cassius is so eager to get a job, he fakes his resume in an application at a telemarketing firm called RegalView. The interviewing boss catches him in the deception, but gives him the job anyway. “Look, we're not mapping the human genome here,” he says.

Cassius is barely scraping by in his life with his artist girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), so he's energetic in the face of this menial job. Management wields a seemingly mythical promotion to “Power Caller” as a carrot to motivate the staff.

Cassius' life changes the day a coworker (played by Danny Glover) lets him in on the secret of successful calling: using your “white voice.”

This launches Cassius on a wild ride through modern capitalism. To give away more would rob you of just what's in store, but I will say without reservation that this movie goes places you will never, ever expect.

The first act is quirky. The second act is bonkers. The third act is bat-shit.

It's truly amazing what Riley has constructed in his directorial debut. It's a comedy that is unabashedly silly, occasionally absurdist, but also so full of layers of social commentary and satire that you'll pick it apart for days.

The take on the excesses of capitalism runs throughout, and it's both funny and chilling. We hit unionization, wage slavery, race, meme culture and so much more. It's an onion, part “Office Space,” part “12 Monkeys” (and a whole lot more).

It's also got a brilliant cast led by Stanfield (whom I have loved since “Short Term 12”) and Thompson (whom I have loved since “Dear White People”). Another joy of the movie? Seeing who else pops up, particularly in the voiceovers.

Want to laugh, be shocked, ask “WTF?” and contemplate our dark future? You should bother to see this movie.

“Sorry to Bother You”

Now playing

5 stars out of 5