At first glance, it’s been a pretty good summer for blockbusters, which saw a bump in box office receipts significant enough to set an all-time record. Taking a closer look, however, you can see that most of the money came from tentpole films like Infinity War and Fallen Kingdom, most of which are produced by a handful of studios. Should the Disney-Fox merger go through, (and there’s no reason to think it won’t) that one studio could control almost half of the mainstream movie market.
With that kind of monopolistic encroach creeping in, it’s more important than ever to shine the spotlight on original storytelling. There are a few choice gems coming up, from Bo Burham’s coming-of-age masterpiece Eighth Grade to Crystal Moselle’s pseudo-verité Skate Kitchen, but right now, let’s talk about writer/director Boots Riley’s scathing send-up of corporate culture, Sorry To Bother You.
At the beginning of the year, Sorry To Bother You premiered at Sundance, where it was purchased by Anapurna Studios. It had another festival go-round at SXSW. Last week, it finally hit theaters in limited release. Ahead of its second weekend, Riley tweeted how important it is for the film to sell tickets in its second week, which would help give the film both the momentum and the word-of-mouth it needs to continue to snowballing its way through a late-summer run.
WE NEED YOU TO GO SEE #SORRYTOBOTHERYOU TODAY. IF NOT TODAY- THEN SATURDAY OR SUNDAY.
IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT FOR IT TO KILL THIS WEEKEND.
thank you!!! 🙂
— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) July 13, 2018
Last year, something similar happened to The Big Sick. After a premiere at SXSW, the slice-of-life romantic comedy, written by real-life couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, kept gaining steam at the box office. By the end of the year, it was a contender for a couple Academy Awards. Sure, it didn’t take home any trophies, but it was a considerable achievement for a film that, worst case scenario, would rack up a few views as part of Amazon’s on-demand video library.
Sorry To Bother You is the kind of film that deserves to find this kind of traction. It’s a cerebral, unrelentingly original work that doesn’t pull any punches as it puts our society’s fetishized adoration of capitalism on blast. Even the main character’s name, Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is a subtle joke in itself.
The story starts off when Cassius is in desperate search of a job. So desperate that he not only fakes a resume, but has plaques and trophies made up to really sell his made-up credentials. His initiative doesn’t exactly win anyone over, but he lands a job simply because it’s a telemarketing gig. The kind of place that will “hire anyone.”
The rundown office, bathed in poison yellow fluorescent light, is reminiscent of the cubicle culture portrayed often in workplace satires, with the seeming touch of Joe Vs. The Volcano (a film I will defend until my dying day).
His boss looks like an unwashed car salesman. He wears short sleeve polyester shirts with bad ties, sports multiple facial tattoos, and has a management technique that comes off like he’s got the YouTube clip of Alec Baldwin’s monologue from Glengary Glen Ross bookmarked on his Internet Explorer browser. The office mantra, STTS (Stick To The Script), is repeated ad nauseam, and the cubicles each come with their own orange bulb that lights up whenever they make a sale.
Thanks to his white voice (provided by David Cross), Cassius begins a meteoric rise, where he’s thrust deeper into a corporate culture built entirely on the exploitation of the working class. The movie steadily widens its scope, before pushing itself into a Brazil-like level of scathing absurdity. And Riley wields this absurdity like a weapon, towing the line between ‘this seems impossibly ludicrious’ and ‘holy shit, this is basically what’s fucking happening right now, isn’t it?’
Much like the film and its take-no-prisoners look at everything from class to capitalism, Sorry To Bother You comes at audiences with a kinetic energy that’s matched by the importance of its message.
We’ll always have big franchise movies, and as content as I am with getting Star Wars and MCU films until the end of time itself, it’s crucial that movies tell original stories, and do so with the flair and vibrancy of filmmakers like Riley. But for that to continue to happen, these films need to find an audience. Be a part of that audience. Talk about it afterwards to help keep the buzz going. Let’s get this film the recognition it deserves.
Sorry To Bother You is currently in theaters. Check out when it’s playing near you here.