THIS POST DOES NOT HAVE SPOILERS which is definitely worth mentioning at the beginning, since Sorry to Bother You is such a wild ride.
In an age of superheros, sequels, spinoffs, and reboots, it’s so improbable that a movie like Sorry to Bother You would rise to prominence. It’s an independent movie, full of big name actors like Terry Crews, Danny Glover, and Armie Hammer, which instead differed to it’s non-blockbuster cast such as Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson and Steve Yeun (and, its breakout star, Jermaine Fowler).
By traditional measurements, this movie shouldn’t have succeeded; but it has. With only a $3 million budget, at the time of writing Sorry to Bother You has made $10 million! And it’s been a darling with critics, earning 95% favorable reviews among verified critics.
Sorry to Bother You is a difficult movie to discuss without getting into spoilers. If you just want the very basic thumbs-up-or-thumbs-down, then yes, I really liked it, and yes, I would recommend it. Not everyone will enjoy it, but it certainly makes for an interesting viewing experience
IMDb describes the premise of the film as “In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a macabre universe,” which is both an apt description and also rather limiting. The most eerie and gratifying thing about Sorry to Bother You is the way it simultaneously seems highly familiar and exceptionally dystopian. Ask any ten viewers what year this movie takes place in, and you might get seven different answers – does it take place in 2020 or 2035? It’s difficult to tell – but it becomes apparent that the movie is both a perfect reflection of and an uncomfortable distortion of our world.
At first, Sorry to Bother You puts aside traditionally-creepy dystopia tropes (for example, big brother) for dystopian elements that are more relevant to our diverse and modern world; black men can only succeed if they perfectly replicate the voice of someone as white as David Cross, the poor are literally being encouraged into corporate-owned slavery. And that’s what Sorry to Bother You does very well, until they debatably overreach.
As I said in the introduction to this post, my intention is to keep this post as superficial as possible so as not to spoil the film for those who haven’t had a chance to see it yet – especially since it has been showing only in a limited release before gradually expanding. If you want to know as little as possible about the movie before going in to see it, skip ahead to the paragraph that starts with “conclusion.”
This movie had a hugely significant moment that I want to call a plot twist but isn’t quite – if you’ve seen it, you know what this big moment is, and I don’t need to say it – and if you haven’t seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it. What I – and the friends I went to go see it with – naturally wonder is: was that big moment really necessary? The rest of the plot, frankly speaking, could have stood on its own. The story was a well-developed conflict of individual interests-versus-corporate interests up to that point, and could have been just fine as a movie only about that topic.
One friend I saw the movie with argued that it might not have needed to have such a bizarre “plot twist,” and that it would have been better without it. I rebutted that although the movie would have been less odd and more accessible without such a moment, I think that such a big twist helps to make sure that people will discuss this movie from years to come. The rest of the content in this film made it a great movie; the surprising twist made it rather unforgettable.
CONCLUSION: I think the most lasting appeal of Sorry to Bother You comes instead from the small truths it tells – a group full of white partygoers who demand that a black person rap (despite the black person insisting he’s no good at it) and being extremely entertained when his rap is just him saying the n-word. Or a corporation being called to face consequences for its abuse of human rights, and instead it only profits. It’s a bold, entertaining, and fascinating movie – if maybe a bit heavy-handed and overly-symbolic at moments. IndieWire described this movie as “Get Out on acid,” which only begins to properly describe the movie. I’ll make a guarantee – Sorry to Bother You is the most ambitious and unique movie we’ll see this year. This movie started off as a limited release, but if this movie is showing in a theater near you, go see it. When this movie wins the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, you can tell your friends that you saw it in theaters.
Score: 8/10. If it’s showing near you, don’t miss it!