“Sorry to Bother You” satirizes everything from unions and rapping to telemarketing and, of course, white people — it’s a comedy goldmine.
In a most side-splitting cold open, Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield, TV’s “Atlanta”) applies for a job at Regalview as a telemarketer with a false resume, a counterfeit “Employee of the Month” plaque and a poorly planned reference from his buddy and future co-worker Salvador (Jermaine Fowler, TV’s “Superior Donuts”).
As Cash navigates the new company, he becomes entangled in an attempt to unionize all telemarketers, led by the suave Squeeze (Steven Yeun, “Okja”). Meanwhile, he doggedly pursues a promotion to Power Caller, which means a big raise and morally compromising tasks.
With his friends on one side of the picket line and the promise of a life of luxury on the other, Cash must navigate a tricky situation. His only weapon is a mastered “white voice” (David Cross, “Arrested Development”) that a weathered coworker, in the form of a scene-stealing cameo from Danny Glover (“Proud Mary”), suggests he develop to succeed.
The absurdist humor may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Writer-director Boots Riley’s script runs in the same vein of “Saturday Night Live” pseudo-band The Lonely Island complete with dick jokes and witty social commentary.
If the film took itself too seriously, and tried to explain its bizarre universe, the diegesis would crumble and “Sorry to Bother You” would turn into a bad stoner movie (think Seth Rogen’s “The Watch”). Instead, Riley offers a rich world with a lot to dig into, and a lot left unsaid, that begs for a television adaptation (HBO — jump on it).
The solid cast holds together the wackiness of “Sorry to Bother You.” Armie Hammer (“Call Me By Your Name”) shines as the wicked Steve Lift, an all-around douchebag and CEO of Worry Free. Fowler’s comedic timing plays off of everyone in the same scene with him. Tessa Thompson (“Thor: Ragnarok”) delivers her performance with ease and spunk.
Unfortunately, Thompson’s character, the performance artist Detroit, is the most underwhelming. Her romantic relationship with Cash feels forced and a clear plot device to further tear him away from the corporate world. And, as the only female cast member, she is shuffled around as a sex object with a convoluted, hollow purpose.
However, all the performances pale in comparison to Stanfield as Cash. Stanfield has the ability to take any strange, weird script and make it seem natural. Despite not being able to use his own voice at times, his physical expressiveness and intriguing vibe make the dead ends and loose threads of “Sorry to Bother You” a non-issue. Stanfield overshadows whatever flaws the film may have to build a world worth exploring.