Sorry to Bother You

Exactly the sort of film you'd expect to see from a political rapper named Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You introduces us to the unique vision of a new filmmaker, even if it's a vision that hasn't fully matured.

Sorry to Bother You follows a down-on-his-luck Oakland resident named Cassius Green ("cash is green", get it?), who lands a job at a soul-sucking telemarketing company and through a series of events must choose between the lures of upward mobility and the responsibilities of social justice. (It's an only-in-Oakland saga, with the city captured smack dab in the middle of gentrification.) This is no slice of life, though: early science fiction-ish glances at a sinister corporation called WorryFree, whose promise of free room and board to its lifelong employees reeks of slavery, foreshadow the wild twists the film takes later on.

It's almost impossible to avoid comparing Sorry to Bother You to Get Out, and not just because Lakeith Stanfield, who plays the hapless Cassius, played the equally hapless Andre in the earlier film. It's not fair to say that Riley was riding on Jordan Peele's coattails, as Sorry to Bother You was a fully realized idea long before Get Out premiered. (Riley, frontman for Oakland hip hop collective The Coup, allegedly wrote the script in 2012.) But while the plots are as different as the filmmakers' styles – Riley's trial-and-error approach lacks the command of Peele's confident debut – the films cover much of the same thematic ground, blending comedy with genre to explore white expectations of black identity, as seen though the eyes of a black man. Yet much of Sorry to Bother You can relate to any well-meaning liberal, regardless of race, who is caught between the drudgery of idealism and the comfort of financial independence.

I enjoyed Sorry to Bother You. The cast is appealing (with a lot of recognizable faces and voices) and there's a real ring of truth to what Riley's saying. Its satire is mostly hit, sometimes miss, and its surreal brand of silliness doesn't always work. But it's definitely an original, and thus it's worth seeking out.