I mean obviously go see Sorry To Bother You. There has never been anything quite like Sorry To Bother You. You know how it feels utterly lacking when people call David Lynch weird? That’s how I feel about Boots Riley’s first feature film, but on an entirely different plane. Here’s some other words I will say to try to build up a picture here, hopelessly aware that I won’t be able to capture just the ineffable quality of the thing: a bitingly conscious laid-back off-the-wall racial-social-political-economic satire in which you wonder at first if maybe critics have mistaken magical realism for “sci-fi/fantasy” but they have not, at all.
Sorry To Bother You has the feel of an internet video that crashed your local cinema like a party, and I mean that as a big compliment, and also a specific critique that we’ll get to. It’s huge on creativity and fearless, radical vision. It has ideas and point of view and young idiosyncratic humor. You drag all your friends around to watch it. It feels punk, renegade, special, something made outside the movie machine, for The People. And…the construction’s a little green and clunky. You know that “George Washington” animation on YouTube? How it’s insane and maybe brilliant, and only two and a half minutes long but somehow feels like it drags a bit? Sorry To Bother reminds me of that. For a movie that clocks in at a clean hour forty-five, it shouldn’t feel as long as it does. But there are internet videos that don’t fall into that trap, and what I think they highlight is how much an almost dangerously economical editing speed makes these hyper-creative, no-fucks projects sing. I want Boots Riley’s radical fire with the rapid-fire pace of those aughts BriTANick sketches — and anyone who has seen this and also that oeuvre knows exactly why I first drew this connection, and is already laughing. But beyond THAT, you know what I mean, right? I think this movie would love a little Vine vibe, a little Daveed-Diggs-in-Hamilton spitfire punch.
That said, holy balls was I enamored with so many details in this movie. There’s recurring gags, send ups of “creative workspaces”, a character who wears an eyepatch whose name is always bleeped out. Speaking of, the imminently likable puppy-eyed stringbean Lakeith Stanfield leads this anti-capitalist parable playing a character literally named Cassius “Cash” Green. His girlfriend is a rising-from-the-rundown artist literally named Detroit are you kidding, played by charismatic godsend/shooting star Tessa Thompson. Terry Crews is in this movie. Steven Yeun is in this movie. Armie Hammer, who could coast forever as a leading man, gleefully signed up for the character actor role of an unhinged villionaire he plays as if he has a man bun just, in his soul. Worn out, bewildered Cash at once point finds him in his den ensconced in front of a print of The Nightmare, and readers I lost it. Meanwhile, Cash’s photograph of his dad updates in each scene to reflect a new mood and commentary, like Cash has wandered over to just-a-bit-more dystopic Oakland from Bryan Fuller’s Wonderfalls. And Detroit’s looks!! Just, the art direction alone in this!
Is Sorry To Bother You a well-made movie? It’s getting there! Is it a good movie? Hell yeah hell yeah. Show up at the ticket counter for this one. Vote. Boots Riley has some points to make and I want to hear what he has to say.