Warning – potential spoilers ahead. Maybe. If they come up. No guarantees or anything.
“Sorry To Bother You” is the debut project by a young filmmaker named Boots Riley. I know this because I listen to NPR, and the movie critic (Bob Mundello? I think that’s his name) had a review of this film a couple of months ago. Now that it’s available in Redbox, it’s right in my target price range for something only I would enjoy. So I picked it up, remembering that Bob was quite enamored with the opening premise.
In “Sorry”, the main character, Cassius Green (pun intended, I believe), played by Riley himself, is somewhat of a loser living with his girlfriend in his uncle’s garage. He needs money, so he hires on with a telemarketing firm. This is, of course, the alternative to signing up for the large conglomerate corporation that would provide guaranteed employment and guaranteed residence, for life, in exchange for essentially all freedoms. This idea of tradeoffs, of give and take, of options, is the essence of the movie. Cassius has traded his freedom for a job, and while at the job he will have to trade his identify for success.
Once Cassius begins his job, we experience what made Bob sit up and take notice. Instead of the traditional split-screen, we see Cassius physically transported to the locations where his call recipients are when they’re taking his call: in the kitchen, having sex on the couch, on the toilet in Japan. It’s an interesting bit of cinematography, because it gets quite on the nose about the phrase “sorry to bother you”, when, in fact, nobody who calls in the middle of dinner is actually sorry. Unfortunately, though, it’s a technique that remains underutilized throughout the remainder of the film.
“Sorry” eventually devolves into a preachy, “capitalism is the worst system, except for all the others” mode. We see the temptations of money, we see the idealism of the hero when he struggles but eventually does the right thing, we see the fawning admiration of the girlfriend when Cassius returns to the doldrums and risks himself for his friends and “comrades”. There’s also overt elements of race and class struggle, and class jealousy, and fear-mongering, and outright suspicion of “good things” anyway. All of these are pretty standard movie fare these days, so they aren’t a surprise.
You know what we don’t see? What we never see in a movie? Someone who sold out, took the money, and lived happily ever after. That’s what I want some time. I want to see one where the guy does the wrong thing, ends up rich as fuck, and just enjoys the hell out of life because, hey, YOLO. I’m tired of this ideal that everyone is going to put someone else’s needs before their own wants, and that all the greedy bastards are going to get their comeuppance. Because, frankly, it doesn’t happen that way. I guess that’s why we put it in the movies, because we want something different from the real world.
Anyway, I enjoyed the movie, even though the timeline was forced, there were large illogicalities in the chain of events, and there were a few creepy scenes. I was a bit disappointed, though. The warning said it was rated R for pervasive and explicit sexuality throughout, and if that’s the definition of “pervasive”, then we’ll have to have a talk with the good people down at the MPAA. There was, what, one sex scene in which nobody was really naked, and there were a couple of other scenes in which some creepy human/animal hybrids were naked, but that wasn’t sexual, just … creepy.
I don’t know how to give stars for movies. If I’m forced to, I’ll say 4/5 stars. Because, as I mentioned, this was an incredible production for a debut. Hell, they even got Danny Glover! But I was ultimately left wanting that the premise, when Cassius physically transports to the locations he’s talking to, wasn’t used better in the climax. I think there was an opportunity there to make something really stand out, and “Sorry” just missed the mark.