Sorry to Bother You (2018)
July 8, 2018 7:23 AM - Subscribe

In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a macabre universe.

Boots Riley’s new comedy is like a modern-day Brazil with elements of magical realism, class politics, and sharp social critique. Stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, and Omari Hardwick with David Cross providing “white voice”.


Chicago Tribune: Satirizing black identity and corporate ethics, ruthlessly

Wired: A Dizzying Satire That Hungers For Truth
posted by migurski (24 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
For those unfamiliar, Boots is also the voice behind awesome radical leftist Oakland hiphop group The Coup. Here's their 2012 album of the same title. Can't wait to see this film.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:29 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]

I saw this last night and really enjoyed it. I wish I had some insightful commentary to add, but I don’t know what to say that hasn’t been said better in the reviews.
posted by bradf at 3:36 PM on July 8

A small detail that struck me was the anarchy sign tattooed on Cassuis’s boss’s neck. He was clearly characterized as a Gen-X punk who’d transitioned into telemarketing management out of necessity at first, and was now defending the company’s interests. So much astonishing depth on precarious bullshit jobs in this movie.

It was also a pleasure to see Oakland’s Uptown, Longfellow, and Hoover/Foster neighborhoods so well-represented here.
posted by migurski at 6:07 PM on July 8 [9 favorites]

Awww i live in longfellow. Gotta see this!
posted by supermedusa at 6:57 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]

Definitely fun and sharp. Editing was somewhat hit-or miss, occasionally tight and effective and occasionally not. One thing that was especially interesting was how spaces expanded into other spaces in surprising ways, starting from the very first scene. This idea that there's something just on the other side of a door, or wall, or neighborhood, whether physical or experiential or social... it's very Oakland to me.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:24 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]

(not sure there was so much Longfellow tbh)
posted by oneirodynia at 9:25 PM on July 8

I was mistaken about that, thought they were filming above MacArthur but the sign store was actually at 28th.
posted by migurski at 9:28 PM on July 8

I was extremely stoned watching it last night. Given I only smoke like, once every year or two, I was altered enough that I can't super meaningfully assess it. I'm wondering now the next day if it was brilliant or dumb?

But Boots' loving, devotional, on-location pictures of Oakland, in all its weirdness and dirtiness and wonderfulness was a complete delight. So perfect in that regard. And I'm so happy that Boots got to make this movie and let his weird fantastic radicalism out to the world.

The gender politics were pretty weak, it didn't even pass the Bechtel test and Tessa Thompson was like a manic pixie dream girl but with less screen time, I thought, but still, Tessa Thompson's screen presence was absolutely wonderful, and she did get her own trajectory, and got to be a sexually free individual, which was refreshing.
posted by latkes at 4:02 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]

I loved this movie! Agreed that the editing was the weak point -- there were a few questionable decisions and I caught some minor errors. But these rough edges can be forgiven for a first time director, especially one working on a film as radical as this. The rough edges kind of give it character.

Boots Riley is an open communist, and I was wondering to what degree this film would function as leftist agitprop. I was pleased to see that it meets the audience where they're at -- it presents its ideas in a way that anyone can appreciate. It gives a strong, funny critique of late capitalism, and much of its conflict revolves around workers forming a union. The film is about the importance of organizing, the different faces we have to put on to navigate work (especially where race enters the picture), and the ways that resistance gets and does not get co-opted by the system.

DO NOT READ ANY SPOILERS OF THIS MOVIE because the way it goes off the rails is startlingly effective and you do not want to have that moment ruined for you.

It is absolutely mind boggling to me that this movie got a wide release. I remember seeing The Coup posting about it on their facebook page during production and I assumed it would be a tiny, obscure indie release. I am so excited that something this radical can hit theaters everywhere. I think I remember Marx mentioning at some point that the capitalists would happily sell us the tools to dismantle capitalism.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 8:24 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]

This is cool: costume designer Dierdre Govan sourced the costumes locally to give it a real, Oakland feel.
posted by latkes at 8:13 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]

That was maybe the most profoundly weird movie I have ever seen at a multiplex. I've seen weirder, of course, at midnight movies, specialty cinemas, festivals, etc. But at the multiplex? Weirdest ever.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:18 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]

I think I saw a trailer for this, like, 2 months ago, maybe, but I went into this knowing absolutely nothing except that it was supposed to be good. That was a pretty great fun theater experience.
posted by graventy at 2:20 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]

This was amazing, and I really hope it does well enough this weekend to get a wider release next weekend. I want A LOT of people to see it--particularly a lot of people who wouldn't normally make their way to an indie cinema or a big-city multiplex to see it. I agree that it does a good job of making the radical message accessible. I was slightly worried at some hints of Idiocracy-ness, but I think those help with that (and for those of who may be reading this before seeing it, don't worry, it's 100% nothing like Idiocracy).

I saw it at the Alamo Drafthouse here, and they showed a few of The Coup's music videos beforehand. I spend every last second before I had to put my phone away buying and downloading their albums.

There was a LOT of subtle weirdness mixed in among the not-so-subtle weirdness. Some of it never gets addressed,but it's mostly fine that it hangs there and remains a mystery or allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions. I did quickly figure out on my own why the head of Worry-Free appeared to be wearing a skirt or other unbirfurcated garment the whole time even though he was otherwise a hypermasculine character. But... that was Detroit's White Artist voice in the video voiceover, right? Was that intentional? Was it supposed to be addressed? Or are we to completely disassociate her White Voice from who she is and not connect that voice in the video to her? At first I thought it might have been an early art gig for her, and maybe it's what led her to do the Left Eye stuff, but she seemed genuinely surprised at the reveal, so.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:17 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]

I did quickly figure out on my own why the head of Worry-Free appeared to be wearing a skirt or other unbirfurcated garment the whole time even though he was otherwise a hypermasculine character.

OK, I'll bite. Why?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:37 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]

I'm still processing my reaction to this film. In the theater, I used a fair bit of mental energy lamenting how much trouble I was in with my spouse for selling her on seeing a social satire and having it actually turn out to be a social satire/loony sci-fi tinged cult movie headfuck. She's going to get to pick the next movie several times in a row now. Several.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:44 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]

I did quickly figure out on my own why the head of Worry-Free appeared to be wearing a skirt or other unbirfurcated garment the whole time even though he was otherwise a hypermasculine character.

OK, I'll bite. Why?

Wait, are you saying that Armie Hammer gave himself a horse dick that would not fit in normal pants?
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:55 AM on July 16

That was my immediate assumption, yes. I just don't think he'd be able to resist the opportunity to enhance himself. An interview with the costume designer I read in my flurry of movie-related reading last night (and can't find right now, sorry!) implies it's not that, but instead it's just him being egotistical and possibly messianic, but... my headcanon will remain horse cock.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:38 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]

instead it's just him being egotistical and possibly messianic

The Venn diagram of "egotistical and possibly messianic" and "would genetically engineer himself a horse cock" is a circle.
posted by Etrigan at 10:26 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]

I knew nothing about the filmmaker going into this, so I spent the first half afraid it was going to turn into some kind of weird alt-alt-right critique of universal basic income. I'm still not sure it isn't, but by the end it reverts back to a fairly conventional pro-unionization film. Kinda wish it had not veered into the corny sci-fi territory that it did, but just stuck with the social satire.
posted by spudsilo at 1:46 PM on July 16

I knew nothing about the filmmaker going into this, so I spent the first half afraid it was going to turn into some kind of weird alt-alt-right critique of universal basic income.

Yeah, I really don't think that was the film's intended critique. I read it as a satire of the way that large corporations have tended to demand more and more from their employees while providing less and less compensation, justifying it by jangling fancy keychains in their faces. Like a big tech company putting a ball pit in your office and giving you free snacks while paying you peanuts and expecting you to stay late every night.

I don't think the film addressed UBI, but I would guess that a communist like Boots Riley would be skeptical of it because it would be a reform that would soften capitalism enough to prop it up and keep it from collapsing, while failing to address the fundamentally exploitative nature of capitalism.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 1:55 PM on July 16 [5 favorites]

I saw Worry-Free as a representation of how private corporations are taking on responsibilities that government no longer has the will to perform, like Starbucks subsidizing its employees' college educations, or Domino's Pizza filling in pot holes. It's not hard to see this sort of thing evolving into a situation where people live their lives entirely in corporate communities that feature many of the services of a functioning state or local government, but are basically just the company store writ large. People becoming citizens of a system not beholden to taxpayers or voters, but to outside shareholders. It would be very much like slavery, or a kind of serfdom.
posted by Strange Interlude at 2:10 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]

Worry Free is both a metaphor and a horrifyingly believable thing. They could start up tomorrow and nobody would blink an eyelid.
posted by Artw at 4:44 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]

(No it’s not UBI, it’s the libertarian-acceptable version of slavery, which is not far off the pseudo-sharecroping shit people get forced into when real jobs go away, but if Musk or whoever figure out how to go one step further with that they totally will.)
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]

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