Sorry to Bother You (2018)

*. Unfortunately Sorry to Bother You was released a year after Get Out, a movie that it was inevitably compared to. There are obvious similarities, starting with the young Black man who is lured into the web of a wealthy white elite that have found a strange new way to exploit America’s underclass. Their sinister, science-fiction plot is even explained the same way, with the hero forced to watch a promotional-type video for a process he is about to undergo.
*. I say the comparison was unfortunate for several reasons. First of all, I don’t think Sorry to Bother You was a rip-off of Get Out. Writer-director Boots Riley had written the script, and indeed published it, years earlier. The similarities were coincidental.
*. The other unfortunate thing about the comparison is that while Sorry to Bother You is a good movie, Get Out is a great one. I’d locate the difference in two areas. In the first place, what I really liked about Get Out was how, given its premise, it all made sense. That is not the case with this movie. WorryFree’s point in turning workers into human-horse hybrids called equisapiens is hard to follow. With increasing automation, we don’t need stronger, stupid workers. And the equisapiens we meet are not more docile and obedient. They are violent revolutionaries.
*. The second distinction I’d make between this movie and Get Out is that Jordan Peele perfectly blended social commentary with a terrific thriller plot. Get Out is a political movie, a powerful one, but it manages to get its message across without being obvious. In Sorry to Bother You the political angle is more direct, basically hitting us over the head with its call for activism. At the same time, it isn’t as funny or as scary. I take it the revelation of the equisapiens was meant to remind us of the sheep or goat-man that Mick uncovers in O Lucky Man!, but in that movie the reveal was more shocking and horrifying. The equisapiens didn’t affect me the same way. Maybe it was the giant cocks. They were distracting.

*. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with movies being political, or anything wrong with the political line Riley is advancing. It’s just that any such movie has to find a balance and while Sorry to Bother You isn’t a screed, it suffers in comparison to Get Out in this regard. At the same time, it also seems less focused. Riley described it as “an absurdist dark comedy with aspects of magical realism and science fiction inspired by the world of telemarketing.” This is a lot for any film to have to carry and also be a cry to rise up and fight the power.
*. I still enjoyed Sorry to Bother You, despite its being preachy and a bit crudely constructed. It’s entertaining and makes its point. But Riley doesn’t have a good sense of comic timing, and LaKeith Stanfield doesn’t transform himself enough from the hunched-over figure desperate to get a job at a telemarketing agency to the power caller of the upper floors. We should feel like there’s more of an arc here, and I’m not sure Stanfield is up to the job.
*. I wonder if the actors might have been able to do their own versions of a “white voice” without having to go the route of dubbing. That would have been interesting. As it is, the lip synching for the dubbing struck me as very bad, throwing a monkey wrench into another comic bit.
*. Critics raved. I think too much. I said in my notes on Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out, that critics, surprised by the success of Get Out, had to overcompensate in their response to Us. Nobody, I said then, wanted to miss the same boat twice. I think the same thing happened here. But this really isn’t as good a movie as Get Out and I don’t think there’s any reason to go overboard in praising it. It’s good enough at making its point. I’ll leave it at that.

7 thoughts on “Sorry to Bother You (2018)

      1. Alex Good Post author

        I think old(er) movies are going the way of old books. We live in a culture of now. Talking to young people about these things is eye-opening, and depressing. So yeah, the number of people who know O Lucky Man is probably shrinking daily.

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