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Love It or Hate It, ‘Sorry To Bother You’ Will Relentlessly Troll Your Thoughts for Days

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Boots Riley’s directorial debut “Sorry to Bother You” acts as a misnomer, unapologetically blazing the way for conversation as a brilliant and relevant piece of political satire set in the context of contemporary American society. However, as a film, it falls short, thanks to amateurish editing, inconsistent continuity and a less than cohesive plot.

The comedy takes place in a fabricated hyper-capitalist future, where the glorification of material culture and the shallowness of social status drives the main character, Cassius Green (played by Lakeith Stanfield). He eventually adopts the utter self-absorption that plagues the top tiers of current corporate America. Riley’s views on capitalism and his predictions for our not-so-far-away future are tinted with a dark hilarity.

These ideas of toxic capitalist culture are reflected in the fabrication of a nefarious commercialized prison system in the film, in which individuals sell their identities and bodies to the system, just to be ensured lives without financial crisis.

This serves as a commentary on the exploitative nature of capitalism, in which people are viewed as economic assets instead of individuals. This idea is later strengthened by the concept of dehumanizing the working class as a means of capital — essentially, breeding workhorses meant to power the industry.

The film ingeniously portrays how social status and professional success is intrinsically intertwined with race, represented by the utilization of the “white voice” in the movie. This element of the film addresses the notion that to reach professional success, one must sell-out. In doing this, the integrity of one’s identity and values, reflective of culture, race, and social standing, are threatened.

In this respect, Cassius does not exactly just fall victim to the lures of corporate success, nor is he coerced into playing into a dark capitalist agenda. Instead, his character chooses time and time again to be an accomplice to the villainous nature of corporations, until he has no choice but to stand against them. He is a hero by necessity, which does not qualify him as the good guy. Cassius is allotted free will and still chooses to make the wrong decision every time, until that will is stripped from him and he’s cornered into fighting back. Because of this, Cassius is the relatable protagonist, in his own f**ked up way, one that viewers can see their own inner aspirations and most toxic desires and ambitions reflected in. Cassius plays out our darkest fantasies of greed and selfishness. In the end, his fall to corporate greed adds an edge to the film’s social criticism.

However, the wild whimsy of the film is a hindrance to creating any kind of coherent commentary revolving around the more absurd aspects of it. While “Sorry to Bother You” is underdeveloped as a film, it’s brilliant as a social commentary dressed up in pleasing visuals.

And in the respect of visuals, “Sorry to Bother You” stuns, with gorgeous shots and color thematics, as well as engaging composition. The film utilizes intentional and distinct imagery that’s absolutely flooring at times. Additionally, the developed and distinct characters breathe life into the film, filling out all the spaces that would have otherwise been perceived as hollow by lesser actors.

However, structurally there are flaws that run amok. For example, the film is structured as a stream of consciousness, with admittedly disjointed pacing. This may be due to issues in the post editing process more than anything.

Three-quarters of the way through, the genre-bending film undergoes a massive shift in tone as it moves into science fiction territory, a move that can only be described as a fevered delirium fueled by the paranoia and delusion of recreational cocaine.

Overall, the concept of the film is interesting but doesn’t live up to the film’s actuality, having no semblance of cohesion or structure. Yet, the film, set against the current context of American youth standing collectively against the government and political corruption has a terrifying relevancy.

Now in select theaters in Atlanta, the film is sure to polarize the crowds, whether audiences arguing over the cinematic aspects or the political commentary contained in the movie.

But whether it becomes a success or box office flop, “Sorry To Bother You” will relentlessly troll your thoughts for days to come without a sliver of remorse.


Erin Davis, 17, is a rising senior at North Cobb High and is a VOX Media Cafe summer intern.

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