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One Movie Punch

Jan 6, 2019

Hi everyone! 

Year two continues to unfold, and today is Sponsor Sunday. Or it will be, once more of you head over to to sign up at any level for a chance to tell us what movie you would like to have reviewed, within some reasonable limitations. 

So, what happens when it’s not Sponsor Sunday? Well, we’re going to dig into the archives for a previous episode. Maybe it’s a film recently available on the major streaming services. Maybe it’s a film related to another film being reviewed that week. Maybe it’s a film nominated for an award or causing some controversy.

Today’s film will be my number one film from 2018, Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You” (2018). I’ll get to my review in a minute, but if you want to check it out, it’s streaming on Hulu, or available for rental or purchase at most digital outlets. It is currently at a 93% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and sitting at a very strong 80 on Metacritic. Now’s your chance to witness the madness!

Today’s movie is “Sorry to Bother You” (2018), the debut feature-length film written and directed by Boots Riley, the driving force behind The Coup and Streetsweeper Social Club, and activist extraordinaire. The film follows Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a black telemarketer in a weird parallel universe who adopts a white accent to follow the fast track at his sales company, entering a bizarre, yet honest world of wealth and privilege.

Spoilers ahead.

I want to start this review with the time I met Boots Riley before a show in Los Angeles. November 6th, 2014. My good friend was in my area doing some union organizing, and I worked it out to head back home with him. Once the work was done, he yells out, “Oh shit! The Coup is playing in LA tonight!” And I was like, “Who are The Coup?” which was followed by my friend berating my ignorance and loading up everything Boots ever did while we drove down to Los Angeles. Absorbed all the music, read all the articles, and after grabbing a bite to eat, we were hanging outside the venue when he walked up. I was stoked. He was conserving his voice for the show, not talking to anyone. I was disappointed... until I heard the music, and the intensity, and the sheer energy from The Coup, and while my buddy was crashed out in the passenger seat, I spent the entire drive to San Diego playing The Coup on repeat. When I heard they were letting him do a movie, and that it was going to have the same title as The Coup’s 2012 album, I was in. 

I loved so much about this film, too much for a podcast with this format, pardon me while I ramble on a bit. The trailer doesn’t even give you a tenth of the scope of this film. It gives you the barest of introductions to the many themes at play. Cassius Green, whose very name is a play on words, is situated in a parallel universe that removes the fig leaf from the economic and social oppression of our current society, one with a perverse sense of humor and arguably more honest than our own. A deceptively simple premise becomes increasing more complex and bizarre as more and more of this world, and the billionaires running it, opens up to us as Cassius first tries to organize the workers, then climbs the ladder by trading those principles for a paycheck, then realizing the world is more insane than he ever imagined, and thankfully, fighting back. Cassius, who begins by questioning his purpose and the meaning of everything, ends by finding his own purpose and meaning... and still has some pretty huge problems afterwards. I’m doing my best here not to reveal too much about the story, though, because frankly, you probably wouldn’t believe me.

Seeing really is believing with “Sorry to Bother You”. You need to take the surreal journey with Cassius, and meet the other important characters like Detroit (Tessa Thompson), his activist/artist girlfriend, and Squeeze (Steven Yeun), the workplace union organizer. You need to see the distinct style and amazing details that merit a second or third viewing, every one of which is a commentary on our current society, and not just the oligarchs, but the vast populations of people too comfortable to care and too myopic to see our society’s inherent contradictions and daily hypocrisies. You need to be shocked by the corporate endgame and the chaos that follows, and feel the disappointment when things don’t turn out the way you would expect, even though it’s how it turns out every single day here. I haven’t seen an aesthetic this simultaneously insightful, satirical, and acerbic since Kurt Vonnegut. Simply amazing.

“Sorry to Bother You” (2018) is subversive and revolutionary, a film that pushes our country’s nose in its own mess, unmasking the economic realities of our country. Boots Riley has made something incredible, a film that embodies nearly all the many ideas and themes from his life’s work as an artist and an activist. I could literally go on for hours about this film, but I will end by saying if you want to see a truly unique film that satirizes everything about our current society, then you should definitely check out this film. 

It’s everything we need right now.