As far as I know, unusual Indie films like “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” or “First Reformed” get strong critical praises, but poor audience reactions. Even Cinemascore gave the emotionally scary “Hereditary” a “D,” and the people I’ve talked to enjoyed it. Maybe audiences and critics are wired differently, I don’t know, but I have found a Sci-Fi comedy that takes risks and surprises you with its imagination and humor.
“Sorry to Bother You” is that Sci-Fi comedy-no aliens or meteors, but it takes place in an alternate reality where “Worryfree” is the most controversial business that strikes up protests. Run by Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), it promises people food and shelter in exchange for hard labor, and that’s slavery. And its television programs include “NTV Spots” (you know what that sounds like), and “I got the S#*@ Kicked out of Me.
There’s a scene later on in the film where the main character tries to expose “Worryfree” as the sadistic company it really is. He gets beaten and covered in excrement in the next shot. Bizarre, right?
The film stars Lakeith Stanfield (“Atlanta” and “Get Out”) as Cash, a young man, struggling to survive with his artist girlfriend (Tessa Thompson), while being threatened with eviction by his uncle (Terry Crews). Thanks to his fake trophies and resume, he lands a job as a telemarketer at “Regal View,” with the slogan: S.T.T.S., which means “Stick to the Script.”
At first, he struggles to find customers, but then an older employee (Danny Glover) tells him to use his “white voice.” For example, his white voice is dubbed by Steve Buscemi. Eventually, Cash find his white voice in the vocals of David Cross, and is promoted to the top floor with a new boss Mr. Blank (Omari Hardwick with Patton Oswalt’s white voice). Despite all the success he is making, that’s when he finds out about Worryfree’s horrible truth.
Activist and director Boots Riley warned the audience at the TimesTalks screening not to spoil anything about the film, so I can’t say the truth about Worryfree. But what I can do is praise the film for its hilarious jokes, unbelievable characters, and a weird style that takes over the show.
Stanfield is perfect in the ways be balances humor and emotions with his views on the world as well as the horrors of the evil company. And I especially love the way Cross dubs his voice halfway through the movie, and almost everything he says is a stitch. You also have great work from Thompson, Steven Yeun as a Regal View co-worker-now-turned-protestor, Hardwick, and Hammer.
The movie does have elements that lost me like Cash’s views on the meaning of life or parts of the protesting story, and again, depending on your views or taste, you are going to find a lot of bizarre moments. But for what it is, I enjoyed it.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” relied on M&Ms for promotion; “Sorry to Bother You” relies on the world for representation.
It opens July 6 in select cities, and everywhere July 13.