The Streaming Guide today starts with a bold picture that defies genre explanation from 2018 and it’s currently available on Hulu:
Sorry to Bother You is one of the most audacious directorial debuts in recent memory from Boots Riley, most known for his contributions to the world of hip hop. It is a daring race relations comedy and drama with an unmistakable point of view on capitalism. Sorry is also a romance, a tale of unions, and it manages to somehow incorporate science fiction elements with human and horse hybrids. That’s right… if you’re looking for something wholly original to view, this fits the bill. The cast includes Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, and Danny Glover.
For my second pic (also via Hulu), I turn to 2017’s I, Tonya. From Craig Gillespie, it recounts the sordid saga of the 1994 Winter Olympics attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Margot Robbie earned an Oscar nod for her portrayal of rival Tonya Harding and Allison Janney took Supporting Actress gold as her wildly eccentric mother. Seek out ESPN’s 30 for 30 doc about the subject and watch I, Tonya as an added bonus.
And that does it for today, folks! Until next time…
In one sense, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You is conventional with its pro-labor and anti-corporate message. How it gets there is wildly unconventional, often original, occasionally hilarious, and clearly from a new filmmaker making his voice and views heard. Riley comes from the world of hip hop and his political perspectives are unmistakable in short tracks. With nearly two hours to work with here, his words can’t possibly be as tight and controlled. This film is messy, but rarely a mess. Like the best music in the genre, it’s not easily forgotten. Similar to a bass line or lyric that won’t escape you, moments here have the same effect.
LaKeith Stanfield is Oakland native Cassius Green, who’s struggling to find a job that pays the bills. He lives in a garage with his artsy girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson). He owes lots of back rent to his uncle (Terry Crews) that owns the property. While the Golden State area looks current, the picture is set in an alternate reality. There’s a massive conglomerate that goes by WorryFree. We see ads on TV that promote a life of not paying bills and free housing. The catch? A lifetime contract of servitude. It’s absolutely an allegory for the director’s view of today’s workforce. While WorryFree seemingly appeals to many, this is not so for Cassius, Detroit, and lots of protesters.
Instead, Cassius finds work as a telemarketer and he initially finds it mundane and challenging. That is until a coworker (Danny Glover) imparts his secret of success. That recipe is using his “white voice”. Those voices are provided by recognizable faces for main characters including David Cross, Lily James, and Patton Oswalt. Cassius suddenly finds himself climbing the corporate ladder once the modulation happens. It leads him to gain the designation of “Power Caller”. That means moving to a swanky floor where only the Caucasian voice is allowed to be used. This also means he becomes a scab to his fellow workers and to Detroit. His financial rise soon puts him in touch with the leaders of WorryFree and its CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer).
Once that partnership is forged, Sorry to Bother You veers into genuinely unexpected directions (trust me on this one). Riley, however, never strays too far from the overall message. He’s got a fine cast to deliver it. Stanfield (best known for his supporting role in Get Out) is terrific and we’ve certainly never seen Hammer like this before. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments. One involves a passive aggressive argument Cassius has with friend and coworker Salvador (Jermaine Fowler). Another pertains to Steve’s unexpected reaction to Cassius’s reaction when a key plot point is revealed.
When we get to the third act, its unconventional tone gallops into an entirely new gear. It’s not totally successful, but I found myself admiring Riley’s kitchen sink approach to it. For viewers looking for something that’s often remarkably different, Bother hits those notes with enough frequency for a solid recommendation.
***1/2 (out of four)
This Friday, the satire Sorry to Bother You debuts in limited release after receiving many raves at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The pic is written and directed by hip hop musician Boots Riley with a cast led by Lakeith Stanfield (best known for TV’s “Atlanta” and last year’s Get Out), Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Danny Glover, and Armie Hammer.
Bother has the potential to be a sleeper this summer. As mentioned, reviews are strong and it stands at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Could Oscar voters notice it? It could be a long shot but Stanfield and Hammer in particular were acknowledged by critics. Many feel the latter was slighted last year for his supporting work in Call Me by Your Name.
Where the film could stand a legitimate chance for a nod could be in Original Screenplay- an award Jordan Peele won months ago for Get Out.
My Oscar Watch posts will continue…