* * * 1/2
To say Sorry To Bother You is about a group of telemarketers unionizing would be to criminally undersell it. Boots Riley’s trippy, frequently hilarious and extremely original Oakland-set fantasia is an urgent, cohesive and accessible statement on race in America masquerading as the best episode of The Twilight Zone you’ve never seen. It joins Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman as an American film released in 2018 that uses comedy to discuss America’s difficulties with racial division with anger, precision, intellectual rigor and a touch of heart.
Lee’s film was a true story humorously told; Riley’s is more of a satire. Lakeith Stanfield (Darius from Atlanta) plays Cassius Green, who discovers the secret to telemarketing success: use his “white voice” (a very clear parallel with BlacKkKlansman, which has an essentially identical trope). As he climbs the ladder at his firm, his co-workers, including his new girlfriend, are unionizing, and his choice – to join them or abandon them for success – is a superb dramatic construction compounded by myriad ethical, political and personal conundrums and contradictions.
This is an example of American Indie Cinema firing on all cylinders: it introduces a fresh, powerful new voice with an undeniably entertaining work that is also completely engaged with current American politics. It’s fresh, bold and, more than anything, it’s wild.