Sundance 2018: 'Sorry to Bother You' is Bat-Shit Insane, But SO Good
by Alex Billington
January 21, 2018
I don't know about everyone else, but I come to Sundance to discover films that we've never seen before - crazy original, fresh, never-before-seen concepts that make my jaw drop. Sorry to Bother You is one of Sundance 2018's most original, most WTF, most entertaining discoveries yet. Made by talented musician-turned-filmmaker Boots Riley, this anti-capitalist social commentary comedy film has creative oozing out of every orifice. It's balls-to-the-walls nuts, in a good way. And despite being a bit sloppy with some weird filmmaking choices, I still love it and don't mind how sloppy it might be at times, because it is so totally bat-shit insane and original and enjoyable and brutally accurate about how terrible our society has become with corporate jobs. It's the epitome of a "one-of-a-kind film" and everyone needs to try a slice of this craziness.
I don't even know where to start with this. The story follows a Cassius Green, played by Lakeith Stanfield, a poor kid from Oakland who lives in his uncle's garage with his groovy, activist girlfriend, played by Tessa Thompson. He gets a job at a terrible telemarketing company, but soon discovers he has a talent for phone sales when he learns to use his "white voice" (as taught to him by the impeccable Danny Glover). As he rises up in the ranks, he starts to question the idea of whether it's better to make money, give up your friends, and live the good life, or stay true to the values you believe in and things you hated before someone started offering you boatloads of cash. From there it gets even crazier since the world he lives in is an exaggerated version of modern society, where the most popular TV show is "I Got the Sh*t Beat Out of Me!" Yep, exactly.
What I really loved the most about Sorry to Bother You are all the funky little touches and ingenious ideas worked into it. There are practical effects borrowed from Michel Gondry during a few amazing sequences, there's an entire claymation scene that is totally absurd but hilarious, there's half-horse-half-men creatures that show up (just wait until you see them), there's Charlie Kaufman-meets-Terry Gilliam-meets-Spike Lee level wackiness, goofy twists, and social satire galore. It's all worked around such strong, biting commentary about everything affecting our modern society: capitalism, corporations, racism, unionization, technology assholes, selling out, and much more. And even though it's rough around the edges, seeing all of this thrown in makes it such an enjoyable smorgasbord of savage goodness. The more I think about it, the more I love it.
I'm already looking forward to revisiting this film a second (and third time with friends), just to experience it all over again and discover more hidden within; I'm also already looking forward to reading all of the many deep-dive articles that will be written about it, exploring the themes and wacky content and bold creativity. Sorry to Bother You is one of thise ingenious, instant-cult-classic creations that will be discussed and referenced for years (or even decades) to come - similar to Mike Judge's Idiocracy. There are so many unique touches to it, and there's such an energetic, exciting vibe to it. Yes, it needs to be polished because a few scenes run on and there's disjointed moments, but overall there's so much to admire and dig into with Sorry to Bother You, I don't mind that much that it's not perfect. It's truly one-of-a-kind and that's enough.
Alex's Sundance 2018 Rating: 9 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing