Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

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oldsheperd
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Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#1 Post by oldsheperd » Mon May 14, 2018 8:31 pm

Sorry to Bother You trailer

In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success - which propels him into a macabre universe. Basically, the dude becomes a big time telemarketer when he realizes he can use his "white voice" to sell stuff. Patton Oswalt and David Cross play his white voices.

Looking forward to this especially since it's made by The Coup's Boots Riley who, imo, is one of the greatest and most underrated rappers of all time. If you never heard of The Coup, look up "Me and Jesus the Pimp in a '79 Granada Last Night."

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Murdoch
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Re: Sorry to Bother You(Boots Riley, 2018)

#2 Post by Murdoch » Mon May 14, 2018 8:44 pm

The trailer for this was like a slap in the face when I saw it during an episode of Atlanta. I've been following Lakeith Stanfield since his standout turn as L in the much-maligned Death Note and brief turn in Get Out. Can't wait to see this.

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domino harvey
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#3 Post by domino harvey » Mon May 14, 2018 8:46 pm

Have you seen Short Term 12? He was great right out of the gate

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Murdoch
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#4 Post by Murdoch » Mon May 14, 2018 9:34 pm

I have not but I'll be sure to check it out now! Didn't know he was involved.

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domino harvey
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#5 Post by domino harvey » Mon May 14, 2018 10:00 pm

In addition to the unforgivable failed Oscar nom for Brie Larson, there was a lot of speculation that Stanfield would be nommed for co-writing a memorable rap featured in the film-- here's a decent overview from the period

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Murdoch
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#6 Post by Murdoch » Tue May 15, 2018 11:52 am

Stanfield is one of those stars destined for great things that it's exciting to watch him so early in his career. That was an interesting read, I didn't realize he had such strong buzz around him right out of the gate but it makes sense!

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Murdoch
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Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#7 Post by Murdoch » Sat Jul 14, 2018 11:24 pm

Sorry to Bother You is either going to rise the pop culture echelon to be the Get Out of 2018 or fly under the radar because of its general absurdity and refusal to follow convention. The film at times reminded me of RoboCop with its dismal view of pop culture, from getting a group of white corporate partygoers to shout the n-word over and over in a rap to a game show where contestants get beaten for money. It's a movie that has a lot of ideas that it doesn't have the time to work through fully - the Left Eye protestors, Cassius's status as the world's best telemarketer, the final act where everything is rushed to a finish. But it still presents its zany dystopia with such a degree of humor and see-what-sticks attitude that I couldn't help but fall for it, especially Tessa Thompson's earrings.

What stood out to me the most was how odd it was to see a contemporary American movie take such a staunchly pro-union stance, even giving a nod to Norma Rae. Movies in this country unfortunately try to be as apolitical as possible, rejecting social and economic issues for rather generic attempts to appease everyone. So it was quite nice to see Riley throw his hat solely behind a group of telemarketers banding together and making the central conflict about crossing the picket line. There were times it felt like an overwrought Key & Peele sketch, especially in the outrageous third act twist, but there's such a distinct voice behind all of it that I hope Riley gets the chance to make something else soon.

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Persona
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#8 Post by Persona » Tue Jul 17, 2018 11:50 am

I definitely enjoyed this, though I do question if I enjoyed the humor in the first part of the movie as much as I did because of having worked in a call center for years.

It's got some Spike Lee and Gilliam and Save the Green Planet in its blood, but all in all I thought it was a pretty fresh feature film debut for Riley.

The pacing is a little wonky and there are some things in the back half of the film that I guess are supposed to be dramatic pay-offs--which feels odd for a film so entrenched in surreal satire and absurdist humor and its own vibe. I'd be fine with the film trying to juggle those different tones and objectives, but the characters--as enjoyable as they are--are a bit too one-dimensional for the dramatic stuff to really work, or at least it is overshadowed by how well the film's humor and social commentary and imagination work.

There is a love triangle sub-plot that is fairly pointless and ineffective and I really wish that time had been used elsewhere in the movie, perhaps in further developing the friendship between Cassius and Fowler's character because it feels like that friendship is supposed to matter at the end of the movie more than it does.

Anyways, good flick!

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Brian C
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#9 Post by Brian C » Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:18 pm

This is my favorite movie of the year so far. I won't disagree that it's kind of a mess in some ways, but that was a big part of the appeal for me. It has such a wonderful free-wheeling, occasionally surreal feel, while at the same time staying within a grounded social outlook; it feels passionate not just about the world of the film, but the real world, and also about art and cinema's place as an art form. Its messiness is appropriate formally and thematically to the story it's telling. I thought it was a thrill to watch, in a way that a more polished film would not have been able to match.

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Luke M
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Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#10 Post by Luke M » Sun Jul 22, 2018 9:29 am

I agreed this was a bit of a mess but also that it didn’t work. Ideas really should’ve been developed more. The white voice was fun and fascinating but it never went further than just being a tool to his success. There’s even a scene where Tessa Thompson’s character uses a white voice but it’s a blink and you’ll miss it thing it’s never mentioned again.

I also found it hard to believe a world where people would sign up for a lifetime of indentured servitude is the same world where other people can afford to walk off their jobs in protest. Which one is it?

Felt like Armie Hammer’s coke-fueled frat boy villain was a wasted opportunity. Could’ve been a far more interesting character. Though the scene where he asks Cassius to rap was one of the movie’s few bright spots.

Overall, huge disappointment. If you’re in the mood for pro-union anti-capitalist entertainment check out a performance of Newsies at your local theatre.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#11 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:31 pm

Brian C wrote:
Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:18 pm
I won't disagree that it's kind of a mess in some ways, but that was a big part of the appeal for me. It has such a wonderful free-wheeling, occasionally surreal feel, while at the same time staying within a grounded social outlook; it feels passionate not just about the world of the film, but the real world, and also about art and cinema's place as an art form. Its messiness is appropriate formally and thematically to the story it's telling.
The comparison point for Sorry to Bother You that rings true for me - and has been made by many elsewhere - is Repo Man, which is similarly a joyously sloppy and radical film that emphasizes its fun performances and occasionally razor sharp sociopolitical observations and criticisms, but which also isn't quite coherent or consistently lacerating enough to be rise above being a good time and a promising first step for a new player on the cinematic scene. Even once the
SpoilerShow
horsepeople mutants were revealed (and overexplained in a hilariously ridiculous corporate animated video by "Michel Dongry"),
I kept hoping for one more escalation or surprising turn in the narrative, which never quite comes. The film instead settled into a fairly standard, feel-good resolution that feels too close to the cinematic version of a reassuring white voice
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(even with the Twilight Zone final shot and mid-credit scene).
Maybe that's unfair for a narrative that goes as many places as this one does - I'll be shocked if Cassius' "rap" isn't the most acidic minute of commentary we'll see on film this year - but for a guy who famously had to pull a cover for an album set to be released in September 2001 featuring him blowing up the World Trade Center and writes songs like "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO" and "Kill My Landlord", Riley still seems like he's pulling his punches.

About those performances: Lakeith Stanfield is rightfully getting a lot of love for his lead performance, and Tessa Thompson's Detroit might turn out to be the most lastingly iconic role of the year - I've already seen people wearing versions of her earrings around, and the shot of her
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spotlighted in a leather-glove bikini and covered in goats' blood
seems destined to be included in every guide to cult films published from here on out. As Luke M points out, Thompson's use of the white voice - with a British accent, in her case - was notable, because I think it illustrates that it isn't just something someone uses when they 'sell out', but also as a way just to navigate and survive in the world. Armie Hammer is fun enough that I would have liked more of him, and Patton Oswalt and David Cross's voice work does the job without calling too much attention to themselves.

I've been a fan of Riley's hip-hop group The Coup since the early 2000s (hit me - a middle-aged white guy from the Southwest - up for hot track recommendations anytime!), and if anything comes out of Sorry to Bother You, I would love for this film's success to enable him to unleash some of the even more radical political ideas he's been exploring in his music for 25 years now, and maybe eventually without the distancing veneer of comic/sci-fi absurdity - though more of that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing either, as this really is one of the more straight-up fun releases of the year, even with its imperfections.

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whaleallright
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#12 Post by whaleallright » Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:40 pm

I thought this was pretty bad. Yes, it's good to see an unabashedly pro-organized-labor film, but I was surprised that the depictions of employee strife, a work stoppage, and a strike were so pro forma, so dramatically inert.

Indeed, the anticapitalist satire was leaden and obvious throughout, even or especially when it got "zany." None of the characters added up to anything beyond their function in that satire. It's to Stanfield's credit that the protagonist came across at all. There's a promising early verbal suggestion that the protagonist is somehow "not fully black" and this has enabled him to achieve a dubious, corrupted success in ways his friends and coworkers find impossible; but we don't get any sense of where this comes from, or what it may have meant for him prior to his employment at Regal. As a result his success, and his corruption, remains an especially thin conceit.

Particularly dreary was Tessa Thompson's "girlfriend" part. She seems to be specializing in roles where the basic sexism of the familiar conception is supposed to be, but isn't, transcended by the character's wokeness. (Here her character's main function is to serve as a sexualized moral signpost: when she is grumpy and withholds sex, it's because the protagonist is supposed to be "selling out" at that moment; when she gets her underwear off, we're to understand that he's on the right path.) The Asian-American union organizer is an even thinner role; neither the screenplay nor the actor grants the character anything beyond a bare plot functionality. The failure to delineate anything in particular about the Danny Glover character (who after letting the protagonist in on a key secret, becomes mostly fodder for pointless reaction shots) is symptomatic.

These problems wouldn't have been fatal if the film had been put together with any integrity or real panache. Sorry to Bother You struts about in a familiar Tarantino/Spike Lee look-ma-I'm-directing fashion, with cuts between extreme close-ups and wider tableaux among other attention-grabbing gestures, but many of the scenes barely come off on a basic level, and Riley seems unable to generate any kind of engaging, much less propulsive narrative rhythm. The film veers between wacky fourth-wall-breaking stuff, limp relationship drama, awkward expository bits, and unconvincing depictions of collective struggle and violence. This mix of tones and levels of stylization could have been intoxicating. Instead, the film just kind of stops dead with every other awkward transition. Eventually, it becomes enervating.

I shouldn't have been surprised by this film's lameness, I suppose. So many other Sundance audience and critical darlings have turned out to be mostly hype (in fact, it's probably most of them).

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Luke M
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#13 Post by Luke M » Wed Jul 25, 2018 1:01 pm

Well said, whaleallright. I sent this review to my girlfriend who shared a lot of the same criticism.

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whaleallright
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#14 Post by whaleallright » Wed Jul 25, 2018 2:09 pm

Thanks!

I should add that a lot of critics, even or especially the ones who liked it, have diagnosed Sorry to Bother You with first-film syndrome: Riley clearly wanted to put every idea he's ever had into the film, at risk of making them step over one another. But unlike most of the reviewers I'm not convinced most of those ideas were promising ones to begin with. I mean, there are some funny, good bits in this film...
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an example being that when Cassius exposes Worry Free's effort to make horse-humans, the world reacts not with horror but by raising the company's stock price
...but the film mostly fails to put them across effectively, much less build on them.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#15 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:24 pm

Riley addresses some of the more common complaints about the Detroit character (some of which echo whaleallright’s comments above) in this [spoiler-heavy] Twitter note.

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All the Best People
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#16 Post by All the Best People » Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:24 pm

I agree with the criticism that the film tries to stuff in too many ideas, and that eventually gets in the way of the story, yet I was still entertained and "with it" pretty much up to its denouement, and I liked how balls-out it was.

I do have narrative issues with what happens after the mansion sequence:
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Why didn't he use the white voice?

When he calls the reporter to try to reveal what's going on, I thought, "Of course they won't believe him, he needs to use his white voice." Well, it didn't occur to the character. So then we get the contrivance of that game show thing, and he gets the news out there, and people think it's great news -- an interesting twist. But I thought -- okay, he has to turn the tide by using the white voice. The whole first half (more?) of the movie is driven by how phenomenally persuasive he is using the white voice, the climax of the film hinges on persuasion, and yet it never comes back. I thought it would have been a solution elegant both narratively and thematically.

Instead, everybody together to riot, which okay, I guess. I don't think it's as strong, but the film wants to make the class point more than the race point, so I see why the choice was made. But then! At the very end, it turns out our man did indeed take the evil potion! (I don't know why it takes so long or why Lift would have done it to him, but whatever.) I thought -- oh, he took the deal! That's why he didn't use the white voice! This was all the plan! You got me, movie!

But, no. It just leads to a brief vengeance image in the credits, more implied violence.
Nonetheless, it was engaging throughout, I like how it really went for it, and the performances were strong. It's a good movie.

It will win the Spirit Award for Best Feature.

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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#17 Post by MongooseCmr » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:48 am

My problem with it is less how much business is going on in the last third, but how Riley doesn’t really have the conviction to sell it to me. To belabor the Repo Man comparisons, the movie gets absurd in its final 20 minutes but it never lets up for a second for the audience to question it. You’re stuck with it the film wherever it’s going to go. Here there’s just so many pauses for Stanfield to question and panic and explain to others; every time he stops to react the film loses its momentum and I stop to think how stupid this all is.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#18 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Aug 14, 2018 6:18 pm


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whaleallright
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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#19 Post by whaleallright » Sat Aug 18, 2018 1:05 am

MongooseCmr wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:48 am
Here there’s just so many pauses for Stanfield to question and panic and explain to others; every time he stops to react the film loses its momentum and I stop to think how stupid this all is.
This is a good point that clarifies something I expressed above about the film's jerky narrative rhythm. There are just too many talky scenes of Stanfield gesticulating, trying to explain or excuse things to other characters (esp. Tessa Thompson's girlfriend), or just agonizing that nobody will listen, that make the film stop dead, and make all the fancy formal gestures feel especially empty.

Also, there's nothing wrong with an artist explaining their work per se, but if you have to write a single-spaced multi-page essay explaining how, no, actually, this character I wrote is not #problematic, well.... The defense reminded me of students who complain that they shouldn't have gotten a "B" because they put so much of themselves into this assignment.

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Re: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

#20 Post by Lemmy Caution » Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:38 am

The artsy, quirky girlfriend with her diverse earrings reminded me of Paterson. The dystopia gave me a District 13 feel, though I should rewatch that. i liked the little nod to Michael Gondry, as the telemarketing calls where Cassius drops in on random lives was clearly inspired by Gondry. The central relationship (and even the buddy) gave off a distinct Do The Right Thing vibe.

Lots of ideas; hit or miss execution. Wish this was tightened up and more polished. I mostly enjoyed it, but it often felt like sketch comedy more than a feature film.

The white voice got tiresome and kind of annoying. While never moving into greater significance. The rap was intentionally provocative but rather juvenile. Not sure the film really had much to say about race or class, but more seemed to use that as a jumping off point for dystopia and wacky ideas.

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