Sorry to Bother You (2018)

Sorry to Bother You, the stunningly accomplished debut feature film by rapper Boots Riley, is a satirical morality tale about workplace culture, black exploitation and rampant capitalism.

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by Alexa Dalby

Sorry to Bother You

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Cassius ‘Cash’ Green (Lakeith Stanfield, Get Out), from the wrong side of town, is unemployed, living in his uncle’s garage with activist, performance artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson, Selma). Tellingly, the film is set in an America where the top TV show is I Got The Shit Kicked Out Of Me, a studio game show which does exactly that.

When Cash cons his way into a job as a telemarketer at in a call centre, at first he doesn’t meet his targets and is danger of the sack – until an experienced colleague in the neighbouring booth (Danny Glover) gives him a word of advice: “You want to make some money here, read the script with your white voice.”

Now with his phone calls voiced nasally and hilariously by David Cross like a cross between Bill Gates and Kermit, Cash’s sales soar dramatically. So does his income: his lifestyle upgrades accordingly.

He’s promoted to the aspirational level of Power Caller, with the pass code to an office on the upper floors of the building and given the honour of meeting the ultimate boss, coke-sniffing Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), CEO of futuristic employer WorryFree. His company’s billboards promise to take all your money worries away by giving you a lifetime labour contract and providing your bed and board – it’s a new, 21st-century form of slavery. But, as Cash discovers, Lift has been much less than honest about the secret of his success.

Sorry to Bother You (Cash’s call-centre opening gambit) is a subversive take on the black experience in America and also a savage, fantastical attack on the global capitalism we see exploiting workers and consumers worldwide. It’s broad, brash, in your face, inventively shot and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny yet it also becomes a mind-bogglingly extreme Swiftian satire that predicts the Houyhnhnms that our harsh times will create.

Sorry to Bother You premiered in the UK at the BFI London Film Festival and is released on 7 Decembere 2018 in the UK.

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