Thursday, 6 December 2018

Sorry To Bother You (2018) - Movie Review

There’s something about the outright absurd that serves as a great communicative tool. All the things that people are unwilling or unable to accept about their society or their reality; just throw in some weird shit, and suddenly, it becomes easier to swallow. The filmmaking debut of Boots Riley, renowned figurehead of the weirder side of West Coast hip-hop, follows this pattern, a depiction of modern-day race relations in a similar vein to Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Not that this is as scary as that offering (far from it, this is an actual comedy, unlike whatever the hell people thought Get Out was); rather, it uses an absurdist’s eye for science fiction to make its point. And oddly enough, it’s a fairly similar point.

The story of Cassius Green, a budding telemarketer who discovers the key to success is putting on a ‘white voice’, gives Lakeith Stanfield the starring role he has been priming for for years now. He serves as the centrepiece for the film’s look at the commodification of racial identity, with the black characters needing to put on white affectation to get anywhere (side note: David Cross, Lily James and Patton Oswalt as the white voices are fucking hilarious… albeit in a depressing way) and the white characters wanting to get their wigger on and be ‘cooler’ by appropriating black culture. The scene of Cassius rapping for his rich, white cohorts is so telling of how we consume hip-hop, it’s honestly kind of frightening.

From there, the film delves into discussions of new slavery through the WorryFree company whose director, played by Armie Hammer, splits hairs to explain how it isn’t technically slavery, as well as commentary on capitalism and workers’ rights that add further to the film’s soupy but hearty scripting. It deals an impressive balancing act of being incredibly funny and incredibly astute, all while never letting the gloriously batshit material get in the way of either of them.

And the hell of it is that the truly insane shit here… comes with spoilers. No, don’t start scrolling past this, I won’t be spoiling any of the good stuff here. I’ll just say that this film displays a level of sheer mindfrag using practical makeup effects (and pretty damn solid effects at that) that I haven’t experienced since Kevin Smith’s Tusk. And what’s more, the results might be even more unsettling. It could easily coast by as weirdness for its own sake, but in conjunction with the film’s themes of capitalism and the mistreatment of workers, it becomes insanity with purpose.

That, ultimately, is what this film is: An incredibly surreal experience, held together by a willingness to inflict scathing commentary on the society around it. It’s not every day that you manage to make telemarketing seem like something worth being invested in, but my word, if this is Boots Riley just starting out, I want to see more of this shit.

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