SXSW 2018 Review: 'Sorry To Bother You'

SXSW 2018 Review: 'Sorry To Bother You'

Exploring racial dynamics in America through surrealism.


Coonery, buffoonery, toxic masculinity, feminism, identity, and Black lives matter are among the many themes tackled in Boots Riley's directorial debut film Sorry To Bother You. Think of this as an avant-garde, dystopian, social satire that uses racial dynamics in the workplace as a catalyst for exploring how people of color navigate within an oppressive system. Some have compared the movie to Jordan Peele's 2017 hit, Get Out. That's an accurate comparison but it reads like Get Out if directed by Michel Gondry.

The film follows Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield). A cunning and sensitive and deep thinker who spends equal time finding a job as he does try to unravel the secrets of the universe. In an opening scene, Cassius uses his wits to scam his way into the telemarketing job--and it works. To get a sense of the on the job training, Riley transports Cassius all over the world in a literal sense as he lands in the kitchens, bedrooms, and bathhrooms of customers.

Now Cassius isn't having much luck on his assigned calls until an older officemate (Danny Glover) explains how to build customer trust through the 'white-voice' approach. "Not Will Smith white," he says, but David Cross white. With the new voice change, Cassius sees instant monetary success, but at what cost? Susceptible to any influence that reaps a modicum of elevated status, thankfully his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) Is there to level him out. Once Cassius reaches the point of no return, Detroit, along with all of his friends and coworkers begin to jump ship.

It's easier to think of Detroit and Cassius as ideals representing extreme ends of a spectrum. One side caters to its oppressors in the name of greed. The other wants to dismantle a racist, corporate system by any means necessary. On an even larger scale, they represent a current split within Black American society and shows how it's nearly impossible to co-exist without unification on one or more issues.

Sorry To Bother you exist somewhere between reality and fantasy where it grounds it's characters, while simultaneously getting you to believe Equetrians are a thing (you'll have to see the movie for an explanation). Riley's borrowed style aesthetic doesn't get in the way of the execution or story. He makes all subjects feel equally important as they offer different points of view on white supremacy and capitalist culture. I don't want to go into specifics on how Riley tackles each issue, as it will spoil the surprise.

This film includes extraordinary talent. Lakeith Standfield has a prestigious and varied body of work that spans television and film. There is no role he can't tackle.

After her role in Thor Ragnorok, Tessa Thompson is one of the rising stars of this generation. That's no stroke of luck, its Thompson and her wide range of talents.

Steven Yeun who offers the biggest surprise as Squeeze. He isn't stereotyped, and in fact is one of the heroes and considered a heartthrob. Yuen is treated as a person, and not a caricature of Asian culture which he pulls off with finesse and charm.

Boots Riley concludes the movie in such a way that it can be ongoing or self-contained. I guess whether or not we see more storylines in this universe depends on how the film community receives it. The film will leave many confused. It may require a second or third viewing. It could even divide audiences---but no matter what people think, Sorry To Bother You will undoubtedly create conversation.

Like, Get Out, Sorry To Bother foregrounds a series of metaphorically based scenarios that display the challenges facing African Americans in a white-dominated society. Reminding you that no matter how the story is spun, the narrative will always hold true for those living that reality.

Popular Right Now

Home Invader Suspected of Cleaning Up

In May 2019, a Massachusetts man is shocked to discover someone had broken into his house. But instead of stealing anything, they tidied up for him.


Imagine coming home after a longs days work to discover your door unlocked. This alone doesn't cause for immediate panic because often it's hard to remember if you even locked it that morning. As you warily enter the house, you are relieved to see your TV is still on the wall, and the computer is still sitting on your desk. When you take another step in, however, you start to feel this uneasy feeling, like someone had been in your house while you were gone.

You notice a smell of cleaning products in the air that you don't remember being there that morning, and to your shock, you see the bedroom door you always leave open, closed. Now is the time to panic. You search the house, calling out for the perpetrator to show themselves. Your children's rooms are immaculate: vacuumed, with clothes folded and beds made, and toilets scrubbed.

Someone has definitely been in your home for hours, pillaging through your intimate belongings, only they hadn't taken anything. The only thing they leave behind is eerie toilet paper origami roses, a staple of the US prison system.

Nate Roman's Facebook

Although this sounds like a funny sketch from a comedy show, this actually happened to Massachusetts man Nate Roman this May. Roman says in an interview with New York Post: "Growing up in the age we do, my first thought was a serial killer. My next thought was wondering if my son was safe, worrying if someone was still in the house."

Despite the ridiculousness of the crime, it is still a crime. The act of intruding upon someones home not to steal, but to acquaint oneself with the environment is almost creepier than a robbery. Just the thought of someone possibly getting off by touching your objects and lounging in your furniture is extremely off-putting.

The motive of this cleaning criminal is still unknown and he or she is at large. It's speculated it may have been a mistaken house tidied by a cleaning crew--but that seems less likely than a creep having a go in a home with an unlocked door.

Don't forget to lock your doors at night and when you leave in the morning and watch out for toilet paper roses.

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