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Review: 'Sorry to Bother You' comedic call to arms

A telemarketer in Oakland climbs the corporate ladder in this absurdist ride from writer-director Boots Riley

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Tessa Thompson (left) and LaKeith Stanfield (right) star in "Sorry to Bother You."

An absurdist, startlingly original Molotov cocktail through the pane glass window of Hollywood, "Sorry to Bother You" is a riot, the year's craziest comedy and the most demented call to arms in memory. 

Writer-director Boots Riley, best known for his work with politically charged Bay Area rap outfit the Coup, is part Mike Judge, part Spike Lee in this modern American tale about race relations, labor unions, corporate evils and the power of the people. That he presents his story as a comedy is the spoonful of sugar that makes it go down easy; laid on straight, "Sorry to Bother You" would be heavy lifting. 

It stars "Atlanta's" Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius Green, a down-on-his-luck dude in Oakland who gets a gig as a telemarketer for encyclopedias. When his initial calls go flat, he's urged to use his "white voice" (which is dubbed in by David Cross), and only then does he start ringing up sales and climbing the corporate ladder.

Riley stages the telemarketer scenes with a rambunctious sense of visual mayhem; Cassius' desk slams into customers' living rooms, bedrooms, wherever they may be, like it has just crashed through the ceiling. That anarchic spirit is felt throughout the film, with twists and turns — best left untold — that travel to bizarre places, making "Get Out" look like a fairy tale. 

Tessa Thompson stars as Cassius' girlfriend, Detroit ("my parents wanted me to have an American name," she explains), while Armie Hammer plays Steve Lift, a corporate billionaire. Both are on point in this cinematic grenade that dares you to pull its pin and marvel at the explosion. Pandemonium is rarely so delightful.



'Sorry to Bother You'


Rated R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use

Running time: 105 minutes

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