Watched On: Hulu
Directed By: Boots Riley
Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Folwer, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, Armie Hammer
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
I can't remember when I first saw a preview for this movie, but the fact that it centered around a telemarketer sort of intrigued me. Having done a six month stint as a telemarketer and two rounds at Wal-Mart over the years I can confirm that there are some truly shit jobs out there and a movie that tells the story of one of them made me interested at least- but Sorry To Bother You is more than just another story of another workplace we haven't seen before.
Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) lives in his Uncle's (Terry Crews) garage with his girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson) who is an artist. Struggling to pay rent, he takes a job as a telemarketer at a firm called RegalView. He has some trouble connecting with customers until an older co-worker (Danny Glover) advises him to use his 'white voice' to make sales- Cassius does so and his success goes through the roof.
His co-worker, Squeeze (Steven Yeun) is forming a union to rally the workers for better pay and working conditions and recruits Cash, Detroit and their friend Sai to the cause. They launch their initial protest and Cash expects to be fired, but gets promoted to the elite 'Power Caller' position. He gains access to the luxury Power Caller suite where's told to always use his 'white voice.' He learns that RegalView secretly supplies arms and unpaid human labor from the corporation WorryFree. He's initially uncomfortable with the job and using his 'white voice' all the time, but he can afford a new apartment and pays off his Uncle's home. His hours get longer and longer and he stops participating in the union and his relationship with Detroit starts to fall apart... when he crosses the union picket line he gets hit in the head with a can of soda, which goes viral on the internet and becomes an internet meme.
Invited to a party with WorryFree CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) and Lift offers Cash what he thinks is cocaine. Looking for the bathroom, Cash finds a horse-human hybrid who begs him for help and learns the truth about what he thought was the cocaine. Lift reveals that WorryFree wants to make their workers stronger and more obedient by making them into the horse-human hybrids that Lift calls 'equisapiens.' The powder that Cash thought was cocaine, was, in fact, a powder that genetically modifies the user to change them into equisapiens- Lift assures him that what he snorted was, in fact, cocaine and Cash refuses a $100 million offer to become one and act as a false revolutionary to keep the employees in line.
Trying to get the news of the equisapiens out there, Cash goes on television shows to try and get the video played, but it backfires. The hybrids are hailed as a scientific achievement and WorryFree's stock goes through the roof. Cash apologizes to his friends and leads a final stand against the Union. He reconciles with his girlfriend, Detroit and they move back into his Uncle's garage- but then Cash begins to grow horse nostrils and full transforms into an equisapien- once he's fully transformed he leads a mob of hybrids to Lift's house and breaks down the door.
Initially, I was somewhat skeptical at all the critics and buzz hailing this movie as a 'powerful critique of capitalism.' The longer this movie has sort of sat with me, the more I realize that I sort of agree with that. In a lot of places, workers are treated as little more than commodities. Maximization of profit is king, consequences be damned, the life blood of your company be damned. What makes Sorry To Bother You so damn effective isn't the unionization or the fight better working conditions or salaries or any of that- anyone with half a brain knows that a good job and good benefits are increasingly hard to come by for a lot of people- especially people of color or those fortunate enough to be born into the right socio-economic class. What's chilling to me is the idea of the equisapiens: it's pure magical realism absurdism science fiction, whatever you want to call it- but you know damn well that some corporation somewhere leaned back in their chairs and said... "hey, that's not a bad idea, actually." And that to me is the true power of this film: it illustrates what's a fundamental problem of our modern economic system today: for too many companies today there is nothing they wouldn't do, no worker they wouldn't exploit to make more money for themselves.
Overall: Dark, absurdist comedy at it's finest this movie grew on me quite a bit, the more I thought about it. Excellent cast, great story and one hell of a directorial debut from Boots Riley. My Grade: *** out of ****