Movie Review: 'Sorry To Bother You'
Boots Riley, the director of Sorry To Bother You, has explicitly asked us all not to give anything away about what happens in the film to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. I think, ideally, most filmmakers would like this to be the case, but with Sorry To Bother You, I will respect Riley’s wishes.
But what happens in a movie and what a movie is about are two different things, and Sorry To Bother You is very definitely about something. Those who are familiar with Riley and his activism and work with his hip hop group The Coup will know that he frequently talks about race- and class-based exploitation, the perils of capitalism, and contemporary politics, and he’s wrapped all that, and more, up in this movie.
Ever since the film premiered at Sundance in January, all I’ve been hearing is how completely bonkers it is. But now, having seen it… I didn’t actually think it was that crazy. Absurd, yes, but absurdity is a well worn and effective tactic in making pointed political statements, and Riley uses this expertly. Otherwise, none of what he shows feels all that far off from the world we actually live in. There is one extremely bizarre turn the movie takes, but even that feels only about two steps removed from where we are with our societal obsession with (quote-unquote) “innovation.”
And for me, all of this made Sorry To Bother You less of a comedy and more of a horror movie. Riley castigates a culture that prizes corporatism and “getting ahead” but that ignores the lives of the people who are actually tasked with building the success of those in power. He shows how literally anything can be appropriated and commercialized, and he takes a knife to a society that is willing to go along with pretty much anything, as long as someone else is getting punched.
Sorry To Bother You will likely make you angry, whether that’s because of a fury at what Riley’s trying to expose about our world, or because of an extreme distaste for his views. But then, that’s part of the point. Sorry To Bother You may very well bother you, but it is definitely not sorry about it.