Come for the woke jokes, stay for the horse cock.
Cassius ‘Cash’ Green (played by Lakeith Stanfield) uses his ‘white voice’ (voiced by David Cross) to get ahead in the telemarketing game. His ascent leads him to the ‘power caller’ level, where he now lives. Along the way, he has to wrestle with the moral quandaries of thriving on the capitalist teat at the expense of other people or come to terms about what being black in America is all about.
Here be spoilers…
What we like
The world of Sorry to Bother You is rich and fully realised. Aren’t its inhabitants fascinating? Long after the movie is over, I’m still thinking about them, wondering where they are now. They are a diverse and eclectic bunch. Detroit (played by Tessa Thompson) fights the Power but isn’t above using a white voice (voiced by Lily James) at her own art exhibition. There’s Squeeze (Steven Yuen), who travels the country, jumping from company to company to organise unions.
Even the antagonists offer a strange interest. Armie Hammer plays Steve Lift, the billionaire CEO of WorryFree (oh my God, is there a more overt representation of modern-day slavery?). He is the face of the new capitalism. The one who’d say how grounded he is and yet has a misplaced obliviousness often seen in the one per cent. (Lift calmly saying that he’s not crazy or “it’s the horse cock”.) Place commerce before human lives and you get Steve Lift.
The character of Mr. _______ (Omari Hardwick) is an amusing enigma. Mr. _______ is what Cash could be if he had gone all the way (Mr. _______ has no name because he gave up his original identity in pursuit of profit).
Then, there’s Cash who just wants to get ahead in life. He’s dogged but wearied. He’s aware of the injustices perpetrated against his kind and class but it doesn’t impact him directly. So, when his ‘white voice’ bumped him up the ranks of the company, you understand his motivations, why he chose to work for RegalView instead of joining his friends, who are picketing outside the building. Stanfield plays beleaguered very well but when it comes to moments of celebration, he lets loose. Stanfield often throws a deadpan look to the camera but you can see his thought in his eyes before he verbalises it.
In Sorry, Cash is told to ‘stick to the script’; the ‘script’ is the prepared lines that each telemarketer have to spew to each person whom they cold called. Sorry didn’t stick to the script, while other films adhere to a formula Boots Riley, who spent years workshopping the story, opted for the road not taken. He could have dialled down the surreality but had Riley kept it ‘Hollywood’, Sorry wouldn’t have garnered this much attention.
We see Sorry to Bother You as a spiritual cousin to Get Out. While both films hail from different genres, they are within the wheelhouse of a ‘social thriller’, where the big bad is social injustice. Sorry is a film touchstone on the state of society today, it may be a humorous satire but it sure is relevant. Even with the introduction of the equisapiens, you start to think that a similar sort of shit could be possible in the real world. I mean, that’s far beyond the realm of possibility that corporations might utilise gene splicing to further production output.
What we didn’t like
It felt a little long. There were moments in the film that felt like it should have ended. Like that ‘final scene’, we felt that it wasn’t needed. Cash and Detroit are happy until he turns into an equisapien. Then Cash leads a team of other equisapiens to go after Steve Lift. Was there a delayed reaction to the cocaine that Cash took? What triggered the transformation? It doesn’t make sense. Which is laughable since we ate up all the rest of the crazy shit that Sorry had put out. The final scene felt like fan service, something for the viewers but if you remove that final scene and the movie would have still been great.
What to look out for
Danny Glover saying, “I’m getting too old for this shit”, a nod to his role as Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon. The white voices in the movie are stereotypically nasal and vanilla. Whenever Cash and Mr. _______ converse, close your eyes and try to guess, who is who.