Hold the line, please, caller
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU I Musician Boots Riley hits the right notes in his absurdist debut…
I’m not a fan, obviously, of the one-idea movie,” says musician-turned-writer/helmer Boots Riley. “I was trying to get at something that was closer to how life is and how conversations are.” No one-gimmick here – Riley’s directorial debut Sorry To Bother You, “an absurdist comedy” set in the world of telemarketing, is a savage swipe at corporate America, reality TV and “the puppet-masters behind the puppets”.
Get Out’s Lakeith Stanfield plays Cassius Green, an Oakland lad who gets a job flogging encyclopaedias on the phone. It’s a “soul-crushing” world Riley knew only too well, having endured two spells of telemarketing around the time that he formed his political hip-hop group, The Coup. “Sometimes I’d just work one day every two weeks. That’s how good I was at it… you have to be willing to lie and manipulate people.”
In the world that Riley creates in Sorry To Bother You, TV is dominated by a hideous-looking reality show called ‘I Got The S#*@ Kicked Out Of Me’, while workers are encouraged to join WorryFree – a company where employees eat and sleep on-site in giant monolithic warehouses.
It’s already drawn comparisons to a certain well-known online retailer, with its strict working practices. “Now a few things have come out about Amazon,” says Riley, “people are relating it to WorryFree.”
If Sorry To Bother You is a nightmarish vision that the world is already uncomfortably close to, it’s also full of weird and wild moments of magic realism and body horror – like an American answer to Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man!
For Riley, it was a chance to explore one of the biggest questions of all. “The ruling classes exploit the working class. We know that!” he says. “Why have we not had movies that show this?” With Riley at the helm, the message comes across loud and clear.
Lakeith Stanfield as telesales star Cassius, with colleague Langston (Danny Glover).