“Sorry to Bother You” was written and directed by Boots Riley and stars Lakeith Steinfeld, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun and Armie Hammer. The film is about a young telemarketer who climbs his way up through the ranks using a special voice, and in the midst of his success, he faces moral dilemmas on what he is selling to customers.
That premise is the most bland way to describe what the trailer to this film shows, as this looked to be one of the most innovative and unique films released this year. The directorial style and editing looked insane, and all that with adding Steinfeld as the lead, who has been one of the best up-and-coming actors as of late, I was incredibly excited to see what this movie was all about.
Riley has to be commended first and foremost for the creativity and directorial flair that he put into this film. “Sorry to Bother You” is, above all, an experience like no other, and that is because of the way that Riley enfuses genres and brings together complicated themes in a style I haven’t truly seen before. While not everything hits perfectly, this movie was so fun to watch mostly because it was completely unpredictable from start to finish.
Steinfeld is terrific in the lead role here, as he makes the character of Cassius very unique and often hard to read with what is going on under the surface of his persona. He is difficult to root for at times, but always is someone that I enjoyed watching, and I thought the performance given by Steinfeld is yet another reason why he is such a rising star.
All of the supporting performances were great as well, especially Thompson and Hammer, who both shined in incredibly different ways. Thompson I enjoyed for her real, almost hypocritical look on society as a whole, and her dynamic that she shares with Steinfeld. Hammer plays a psychotic, drug-addicted CEO better than I thought he ever could, as he is equal parts funny, charming and absolutely disturbing when he needed to be.
The editing I came in excited for was as great as I thought it would be, with many scenes that usually would be bland coming fully to life through some quick, creative cuts that added to the flair that Riley so brilliantly added. There is a frantic energy that is hard to fully describe in this film, but these edits just add to a movie that feels wholly unique in every way.
What I appreciated most about “Sorry to Bother You” was in its clever satire. This movie takes place in an alternate version of our world, clearly, but it also has a handful of ideas about consumerism, wage gap disparity and racism that are clear enough to fully realize through Riley’s clever direction. This film is weird, but it usually feels weird for a purpose, and it leads to some outstanding reveals later on in the story about what this world is really like.
Sadly, as much as I appreciated the originality on display every step of the way, this movie sometimes loses its grasp on being weird just to be weird versus being weird for style and for purpose. The third act of this movie is where that line gets stretched the most, as while I really enjoy some of the twists, I thought the concluding moments were weird with no purpose, and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Of all things in this genre-bending film, I found the comedic aspects to fall flat the most often. I enjoyed Riley’s script, but the jokes given by characters were mostly lackluster, and only got a few chuckles out of me at the most. The joke that fell the hardest on its face was one involving a soda can hit to the head, as it wasn’t funny to begin with, and became borderline cringy the more the movie thought it was hysterical.
I really enjoyed the arc of Steinfeld’s character, but the subplots going on around him never captured my attention, especially with the worker’s strike. Yes, I know it was important to include to some extent, but it did not deserve the amount of attention the film gave it, as it was easily the less interesting component of the film.
“Sorry to Bother You” is a wild film, a film that has loads of compelling satire and welcomes a new, exciting director in Boots Riley. But, Riley does fail to grasp everything required to make this a great film, as many do in their debuts, and it leaves the movie feeling a tad uneven and a little overly silly on occasion. It isn’t quite a “Get Out,” but “Sorry to Bother You” is still an important watch, even with its flaws.
What did you think of “Sorry to Bother You”? Comment below with your thoughts.