At present, the future isn’t looking all that bright, and if we examine the alternative universe in Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, the near future looks even less promising. Set in Oakland, Riley’s whimsically boisterous satire focuses on Cassius Green (excellently portrayed by Lakeith Stanfield). Broke and desperate, Cassius is living in his uncle Sergio’s (Terry Crews) garage, aimlessly trying to find his purpose in life. His activist/artist fiancée, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), seems content in her present circumstances — making artwork, protesting the blistering effects of capitalism and taking various odd jobs for cash. However, with his uncle facing foreclosure on his home, Cassius is desperate to live a more robust and financially stable life.
Lacking any discernable skills or passions, Cassius snags a job at RegalView Telemarking. Plopped down in a dark, suffocating basement, Cassius struggles to bring in his commission-based pay. Luckily, after getting some advice from a more seasoned co-worker named Langston (Danny Glover), Cassius’ luck at work begins to change. He quickly rises the ranks – eventually becoming a coveted Power Caller in the building’s penthouse under Mr. Blank (Omari Hardwick). Sorry to Bother You might seem straightforward, but its magic lies in Riley’s writing and the writer/director’s confidence and ambition.
Sharp and surreal, Cassius is jolted into the homes of the people that he’s calling, and that’s just the beginning of Riley’s asymmetric take on storytelling. Langston’s advice is the real kicker. He instructs Cassius to use his “white voice” to bring in sales. A “white voice” isn’t simply a high pitched tone infused with proper grammar; Arrested Development’s David Cross speaks for Cassius when he opens his mouth – it’s pretty insane.
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