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MOVIES: (LFF 2018) Sorry to Bother You - Review

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Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You has finally has received a distributor in the United Kingdom and after a late addition at this year’s London Film Festival, I was able to catch a screening of it and it was worth waiting to see it on the biggest screen possible. Boots Riley’s film is funny, original and just fantastic to watch, establishing itself as a leading contender that deserves to be talked about in regards to the best of the year.

The setting is an alternative version of Oakland, with only minor differences. We follow a telemarketer named Cassius Green, played by Lakeith Stanfield, who finds out a trick to get ahead of the game and quickly becomes an overnight success story at his workplace. But the higher he gets the more conflicted he becomes with his morals, especially when he’s asked to do things that are becoming more and more morally dubious by the second. This puts him in a direct contrast with not just his fellow co-workers, who are undergoing a revolution for a more consistent pay led by the enthusiastic founder of multiple worker’s unions – Squeeze, played expertly by Steven Yuen, but also Tessa Thompson’s superbly named character Detroit, who is a budding revolutionary of her own, an artist with fantastic earrings which she frequently makes herself.

The characters that inhabit the world of Sorry to Bother You are fantastic and richly developed. Each have their own quirks and mannerisms, and play off each other fantastically. It’s nice to see that although there is the potential for the film to be bogged down in melodrama, there are frequent ways that the film plays or subverts with your expectations to keep you on edge. There is a scene where a gun is shown but it is never fired, and in another, a secret is kept but it is never revealed in its entirety. But these are just two things that make the film so unique and authentic, proud in its vision that it doesn’t shy away from showing to the audience.

Sorry to Bother You starts out weird and gets increasingly weirder as the film progresses, carrying a subversive undertone to it in a stylish and cool way. Highly imaginative, it acts as an excellent palette cleanser after the more traditional Colette, which I watched just before.The editing is top notch and the cinematography is good too, really giving a unique feel to the film’s location.

The fact that it is so incredibly inventive in its approach really adds to its depth – and although yes, there are some problems that stem from the fact that this is a director’s first film, namely in the pacing department, it is otherwise clearly a home run. If Boots Riley debuted this strong then there’s no telling how good he’s going to get in the years to come, as he clearly has a strong career ahead of him. It's also always a positive sign when the film earns an applause at the press screening - even if it was abruptly silenced by the immediate post-credits epilogue that followed.

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