No clever segue. Been seeing this trailer all over the place and I’m getting a little sick of it.
The story looks like it’s about this dude who gets a job as a telemarketer and seems to have a knack for it, climbing the ladder and getting himself noticed by competing telemarketing companies.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Lakeith Stanfield (CROWN HEIGHTS , MILES AHEAD , STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON , and upcoming films THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB  and SOMEONE GREAT ), Tessa Thompson (ANNIHILATION , THOR: RAGNAROK , CREED , and upcoming films CREED II  and the Men In Black spin-off ), Terry Crews (DEADPOOL 2 , THE RIDICULOUS 6 , and the upcoming JOHN HENRY ), Danny Glover (PROUD MARY , MONSTER TRUCKS , ALMOST CHRISTMAS , and upcoming films THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN  and CHRISTMAS BREAK-IN ), and Armie Hammer (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME , NOCTURNAL ANIMALS , THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. , and the upcoming ON THE BASIS OF SEX ).
Now for the crew. Writing, directing, and co-composing the score is Boots Riley, who has mostly worked on soundtracks for most of his career, but is making his debut as both a director and a writer. Congrats, sir. Riley’s co-composers, making for a staggering total of four composers on this film, we have The Coup, Merrill Garbus, and Tune-Yards, all making their debuts as composers. Congrats, the lot of you. The cinematographer is Doug Emmett, known for THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (2016). Finally, the editor is Terel Gibson, known for stuff that I’ve not seen or heard of, and the upcoming THE LAST FULL MEASURE (2018).
I know there’s a lot of positive hype surrounding this, calling it one of the best movies of the year, but I don’t know. I’m looking at this trailer and none of the jokes are landing for me. Originally, I thought this was going to be something of a parody of telemarketing life. Like someone thought to combine the world of telemarketers with WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) and just make it seem more cutthroat than it really is. The concept certainly looked entertaining enough at a glance, but the more trailers came out, the less interested I was getting. I keep seeing that this is supposed to be an alternate reality of sorts, a dystopian setting, or some such shit like that, but I have no idea. These ideas don’t look like they’re presented in the story. Personally, I’m really indifferent. If I were to take a crack at the plot, which if it’s as good as early praise is indicating, then I should be wrong on all accounts, but it’s going to basically be a rags-to-riches type of story. It’s going to be Stanfield’s character starting off broke, works his way up to riches and respectability, it’s going to turn him into an asshole, and he’ll eventually lose all that he’s accumulated. Sure, it’s probably a cynical way to look at things, but that’s the only vibe I’m getting at the moment. I really hope I’m wrong.
This is my honest opinion of: SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Set in Oakland, California. Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is a broke young man living in his uncle Sergio’s (Terry Crews) garage with his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) and has just recently landed a job at Regal View Telemarketing, as a telemarketer on the ground floor. At first, he’s not making many sales, but he’s advised by his co-worker Langston (Danny Glover) to use his “white voice” if he wants to make any sales. To Cash’s surprise, that’s exactly what happens and becomes the top telemarketer in Regal View, earning the coveted position of Power Caller in the upper floors of Regal View’s building, where real money is made. Despite his reluctance to accept, especially when the rest of his co-workers have decided to strike and push for higher pay and benefits, Cash agrees to the promotion. But it doesn’t take long for things to go downhill.
I was mostly wrong… and yet, mostly right. It’s hard to say.
Well, I should admit that while there are rags-to-riches undertones, that’s not what this story is. But then again, I wouldn’t know what this story really is because its themes seem to bounce all over the place. Is it a movie about not selling out? That’s certainly what Cash does. His co-workers and friends want to be paid more and have better benefits working their positions, but Cash barely includes himself, especially when it means his promotion. But the film barely follows through with that later on when the consequences of his decisions aren’t really a reflection of his choices. It’s not like losing his friends amounts to any kind of self-realization about who’s important, or anything like that, especially toward the end when the really weird shit starts happening, and that definitely disproves that idea.
Is it raging against commercialism? That would make sense, especially toward the end where the truly weird stuff happens, but notice how I keep saying, “toward the end.” Meaning that the movie, up to that point, doesn’t support that theory either. It’s like if you made THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and then the last half hour of the movie was about how Red shouldn’t be a smoker, and the message of the movie all along was “smoking is bad” when the story has otherwise been an uplifting message of never giving up hope in the worst of situations. It doesn’t fit, nor does it add up. Whatever this movie was trying to say, I sure as hell didn’t hear it.
I’ve even made an attempt to do “research” about what other critics and reviewers were saying, as this movie is getting a crap-ton of rave reviews. But I could only get through two and neither of them really explain why it’s so great. One reviewer said, “It’s a provocative, serious, ridiculous, screwy concoction about whiteface, cultural code-switching, African-American identities and twisted new forms of wage slavery, beyond previously known ethical limits.” I can’t exactly say that’s incorrect, but with that said, that’s not saying anything. “Whiteface, cultural code-switching, African-American identities,” I see where this is coming from. Cash is black and it shows in his voice in the calls that he makes. In order to make deals, he has to pretend to be white. But… this barely affects him and his “identity as a black guy” isn’t exactly called into question. His white voice is a tool used to get him sales, which nets him a larger income to pay rent and provide for himself and his girlfriend. Sure, he becomes something of an asshole, but I don’t see it as a result of his “identity.” Take Nite Owl from WATCHMEN. Dan Dreiberg is obsessed with being a superhero, but the law forbids him from putting on a costume and fighting crime. He’s torn between doing what he loves, which is fight crime and uphold the law, and to follow the law, which tells him not to. We understand his conflict, both inner and outward. But what’s Cash’s conflict? Ultimately, it’s working for a company that has its problems, not wondering if what he’s doing is chipping away at his soul, or whatever. Oh, and “…twisted new forms of wage slavery, beyond previously known ethical limits”? This barely had anything to do with the movie at all, and barely connects to “lost identity,” other than the obvious aesthetics, but even when the movie gets there, it’s barely tackled.
Long and short, I just don’t get it. Or maybe I do, and I just don’t agree on why that makes this movie good.
I could go on and on about how much I didn’t agree with this movie, but I’m getting exhausted just from the subject matter I’ve already tackled, and there’s a lot more to talk about, but I’m going to get my review a move on. Is there anything about the film that I did like? The acting is pretty good and I do like some of the ideas that the movie has. While not all of the comedy hits, I did get a few laughs, Armie Hammer is psychotically great, and there were more than a few fun and impressive visuals. I definitely enjoyed, what I can only assume to be, Cash’s overactive imagination of what his callers look like and what they’re doing, the movie certainly had more than a couple of goofy enough moments to prevent me from being completely bored.
Overall, I don’t like this movie. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, doesn’t flow very well either in terms of its themes, or storytelling. If the insanity works for you, then more power to you guys, but I’ll take my place among the minority of those who didn’t get anything out of this. As a recommendation, I say… viewer beware. Not many people in the auditorium that I saw it with seemed to like it that much, but if you’re interested, I might say just bite the bullet and make your own opinion. If it were up to me, I’d say skip it, but it’s up to you to decide for yourselves.
My honest rating for SORRY TO BOTHER YOU: a weak 3/5
This week’s reviews:
- HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION
- EIGHTH GRADE
- DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT
- A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Next week’s reviews:
- THE EQUALIZER 2
- MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN
- UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB
- PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997)