Richard joins CP24 anchor Nick Dixon to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including “Skyscraper,” the animated Adam Sandler flick “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” the documentary “Whitney,” the biopic “Mary Shelley,” “Sorry to Bother You” starring LaKeith Stanfield and the comedy “The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger.”
“Sorry to Bother You” is set in an alternative reality version of present day but feels like a throwback to the politically charged satires of the 1980s and 90s. Echoes of “Repo Man” and the like reverberate throughout but nonetheless director Boots Riley is never less than original in his telling of the tale of a telemarketer who trades part of his identity for success.
The story centers around slacker Cassius Green (LaKeith Stanfield), a young man who lives in his Uncle Sergio’s (Terry Crews) garage. “I’m just out here surviving,” he tells his performance artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson). In need of money—he’s four months behind in rent—he goes to a telemarketing job interview armed with a phoney resume and some fake “Employee of the Month” awards. Lies notwithstanding he gets the gig. “This is Tele marketing,” says his new boss (Robert Longstreet). “We’re not mapping the human genome here. You will call as many numbers as possible. You will stick to the script we give you and you will leave here happy.”
After a rough start Cassius gets some advice that changes everything. “If you want to make some money here use your white voice,” says the guy in the next cubicle (Danny Glover). “I’m talking about sounding like you don’t have to care. Like you don’t really need this money. It’s what they wish they sounded like.” The technique works (David Cross provides Cassius’s white voice) and on the eve of a strike in the telemarking office Cassius is promoted, bumped upstairs to the elite Power Callers floor. “Welcome to the Power Caller suite,” says his new boss (Omari Hardwick). “Use your white voice at all times here.”
The new job involves selling power—fire power and manpower, specifically the services of WorryFree, a service that offers lifetime work contracts to desperate people. Run by mogul Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), the company has been accused of selling slave labour, and now Cassius is their number one salesperson. His success comes at a cost, however. His girlfriend doesn’t approve and his striking friends call him a scab. The new job may be on the wrong side of the ethical divide but, at first at least, Cassius grins and bears it. “I’m doing something and I’m really good at it. I’m important.”
From here the story goes places that will not be spoiled here. Suffice to say Riley takes “Sorry to Bother You’s” viewers on a journey unlike any other. The film is an audacious capitalist nightmare, heavy on anti-corporate, pro-union rhetoric filtered through a kaleidoscopic lens. It’s risky and witty, edgy and inventive and unrestrained in a way that makes it utterly unique. Scathing commentary on the state of the world—“If you are shown a problem,” says Squeeze (Steven Yeun), “and can’t do anything about the problem you get used to the problem.”—is coupled with creative, confrontational filmmaking.
In “Sorry to Bother You” Riley has created an apocalyptic world that looks like ours but tilted 180°. He’s populated it with offbeat characters who forward the story but bring humanity to the strange world they inhabit. Their take on race relations, employment and relationships feels real even though nothing else in the movie does. It’s the peak of satire to heighten the situation but still make real, humanistic points. Riley does both in a way that is both experimental and entertaining.