“Sorry to Bother You” is a masterwork of originality
There’s a sea change of originality to be found within Sorry to Bother You, the best film of the year so far. Not only is it the class of 2018 so far, it’s arguably one of the very best movies of the last five years. The past half decade has had some real great works, and this stands tall alongside them. Boots Riley makes a debut here that is one for the ages. This weekend, when Sorry to Bother You begins its theatrical run, a magical experience is hitting cinemas. It may turn some people off, but if you’re anything like me, it’s going to blow you away.
Describing this movie is almost impossible, and that’s part of its charm. The plot synopsis is perfectly vague on IMDb, as it simply states: “In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a macabre universe.” Cassius (Lakeith Stanfield) just wants to find a job, so when he ends up as a telemarketer, the doors that open are hardly what he expects. The less said about this the better, but trust me when I say it’s absolutely insane, a hearty mix of comedy, drama, and satire. Riley writes and directs, while opposite Stanfield, the cast includes Kate Berlant, Terry Crews, Jermaine Fowler, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer, Omari Hardwick, Robert Longstret, Michael X. Sommers, Tessa Thompson, Forest Whitaker, and Steven Yeun. Plus, the voices of David Cross, Rosario Dawson, Lily James, and Patton Oswalt pop up as well. Doug Emmett provides the cinematography, while the score comes from The Coup, Merrill Garbus, Tune-Yards, and Riley himself.
The film is just perfect. The first third is hilarious and satirical, while the middle portion adds in some extra social commentary and mystery. Then, the final act is just bug nuts insane, in the best way possible. Essentially, the first half belongs to Stanfield and Thompsons (both of whom are phenomenal), while the second half also brings Hammer into the equation. That supporting turn by Hammer is among the most amusing things this year. Once you understand where it’s all going, you’ll be stunned. I mean that as a compliment too. You’ve never seen anything like this flick, I promise you that.
In a perfect world, Sorry to Bother You would be a huge Oscar player. Annapurna should push this one across the board, especially in categories like Best Picture, Best Director (for Riley), Best Actor (for Stanfield), Best Actress (for Thompson, if she doesn’t go Supporting), Best Supporting Actor (for Hammer), Best Supporting Actress (for Thompson, if she doesn’t go Lead), and Best Original Screenplay (also for Riley). Honestly, this is more suited for the Independent Spirit Awards than the Academy Awards, but hope springs eternal. If all of those new voters embrace something like this, anything is possible. In that scenario, Original Screenplay for Riley could very well be on the table.
Starting on Friday, audiences can give themselves over to the experience that is Sorry to Bother You. We so rarely get surprises of this nature, so forget anything you might have heard about this one back at the Sundance Film Festival. Whatever you think you know, this is so much more than that. It’s a masterpiece that will immediately stand the test of time. When I do my year end list, I can all but guarantee this will still be high atop my top ten of 2018. Once you find out why, you’ll wonder how we ever lived in a world without this movie. Seek it out and you can thank me later…
Be sure to check out Sorry to Bother You, in theaters this weekend!