Monday, August 06, 2018

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

This near-future dystopia takes dead aim at corporatism West Coast style, putting a racial gloss on the Brazil-like nightmares it sees ahead. I don't like Brazil that much in the first place (way too much texture, my usual problem with Terry Gilliam), but the movie Sorry to Bother You reminded me of more was The Circle, a similar attempt last year to signal through the flames of pernicious Silicon Valley culture. Sorry to Bother You is ironic comedy, The Circle is suspense thriller, but the complaints and observations are similar, and familiar. Cassius "Cash" Green (Lakeith Stanfield, Get Out and Selma) is in his late 20 or early 30s and lives in Oakland. He's just landed a job in a telemarketing cube farm at the corporation RegalView. That means he can pay his back rent and help his uncle prevent the bank from foreclosing. His girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson, Creed) is a performance artist with a day job waving signs in front of stores and on busy corners. She is working on a gallery show. The biggest show on TV is I Got the S#*@ Kicked Out of Me—amazingly, that's exactly what it is, a cross between laff-riot TV game show productions and the violence channel in Videodrome. Meanwhile, at the job, Green's work and coworkers are likely familiar to anyone who has put time in on the temp circuit as good-hearted victims of various corporate greed and malfeasance plays. In RegalView's particular line, making sales on the phone is the name of the game. One of Green's coworkers, Squeeze (Steven Yeun, Glenn on The Walking Dead), is trying to organize a union and plans a strike and other actions. But they have poor timing for Cash Green. It turns out he can do his job pretty well when he puts on a white voice, with the help of coaching from another coworker, Langston (Danny Glover). It's actually a lip-synch job, with David Cross, Patton Oswalt, and others providing the white voices. With his white voice, Green is soon on his way to the higher echelons of RegalView as a "power caller," with better offices, a promotion and raise, and the opportunity for ever greener pastures. The only problem is that he is literally marketing B2B for slave labor, as RegalView's biggest client is the corporation WorryFree (please note all the embedded capitalization please), which offers a scheme much like the reverse mortgage only based on lifetime labor. You sign the WorryFree contract and they will keep you working, fed, and sheltered for the rest of your life—it's a promise. Later in the movie, human genetics experiments offer another model for temps, but along about here Green's conscience starts to bother him. It's not that the ideas in Sorry to Bother You are so tired—though they're not that fresh either. It helps that they look way too damn much like reality right now. But in the end I didn't think the movie had enough there there, as Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland.


  1. Oaktown 357! Give 'em hell, Boots Riley! It's Hammer time! What ab Black Klansman? Gotta see that.

  2. Just saw this. "Can we all just get along?" No.