Fans of Donald Glover's bizarrely brilliant TV series Atlanta will no doubt recognize Lakieth Stanfield (also of Get Out fame) as the sidekick to Paper Boi, Darius. As Cassius in Sorry to Bother You from writer/director Boots Riley, Stanfield brings a similar subtle vulnerability to his first big screen starring role.
Cassius is a struggling Oakland resident with an artsy girlfriend who is probably too good for him, a goofy pal and a new job with a multi-tiered telemarketing firm. But when his low-paid coworkers attempt to unionize, Cassius is forced to choose between standing on the side of what's right or finally making a decent living. As always, those in power wind up being evil.
With a little help from screen vet Danny Glover, Stanfield's character adopts a white voice (David Cross) to help close sales. His stats skyrocket and he is thrust into the highest echelons of the company—a place where his boss (played by Common and voiced by Patton Oswalt) can spin arms sales and legalized slavery as good things, a place where one of the telemarketing firm's clients (Armie Hammer) spouts off-handed racist claptrap and spearheads an utterly dark special project. Cassius becomes unfortunately privy to said project and hijinks ensue, yes, but also social commentary and terrifyingly strange conditions punctuate the sad-funny jabs at modern America.
Sorry to Bother You transforms just before the final act from an Office Space-esque riffing on contemporary office culture to a silly—though not entirely unthinkable—nightmare akin to Jordan Peele's critically adored Get Out. The film's descent into glorious controlled chaos is so sudden and jarring that we don't have time to catch our breath before we are forced to accept the sci-fi lite absurdity. And we do so with relish; empathizing for Cassius as a man who finally felt like someone, but hating him for how he does it; fearing the corporatization of everything under the sun and the subsequent deregulated madness, but identifying with the powerlessness of the working class all through the fever dream insanity of Cassius' meteoric rise and humiliating fall.
+Sneaks up on you; magic realism
-Some loose threads; some superfluous scenes
Sorry to Bother You
Directed by Riley
With Stanfield, Common, Hammer, Glover and Oswalt
Violet Crown, R, 105 min.