Sorry to Bother You

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Sorry to Bother You
Sorry to Bother You.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBoots Riley
Produced by
Written byBoots Riley
Starring
Music by
CinematographyDoug Emmett
Edited byTerel Gibson
Production
companies
  • Significant Productions
  • MNM Creative
  • MACRO
  • Cinereach
  • The Space Program
Distributed byAnnapurna Pictures[a]
Release date
  • January 20, 2018 (2018-01-20) (Sundance)
  • July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06) (United States)
Running time
112 minutes[2][3]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$3.2 million[4]
Box office$17.9 million[5]

Sorry to Bother You is a 2018 American dark comedy film written and directed by Boots Riley, in his directorial debut. It stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, and Armie Hammer. The film follows a young African-American telemarketer who adopts a white accent to succeed at his job. Swept into a corporate conspiracy, he must choose between profit and joining his activist friends to organize labor.

Principal photography began in June 2017 in Oakland. Sorry to Bother You premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2018, and was theatrically released in the United States on July 6, 2018, by Annapurna Pictures. The film received praise for its cast and concept, as well as Riley's screenplay and direction.

Plot[edit]

Cassius "Cash" Green lives in his uncle's garage with his girlfriend, Detroit, an artist. Struggling to pay rent, Cash gets a job as a telemarketer for RegalView. Cash has trouble talking to customers until an older co-worker teaches him to use his "white voice", at which Cash excels.

Cash's coworker Squeeze forms a union and recruits Cash, Detroit, and their friend Sal. When Cash participates in a protest, he expects to be fired but is instead promoted to an elite Power Caller position. In the luxurious Power Caller suite, Cash is told to always use his white voice, and learns that RegalView secretly sells arms and unpaid human labor from the corporation WorryFree.

Though Cash is initially uncomfortable with the job, he can now afford a new car and apartment and pays off his uncle's home. Working long hours, he stops participating in the union, and his relationship with Detroit deteriorates. When Cash crosses the union's picket line, one of the picketers hits him with a can of soda. Footage of the incident becomes an internet meme.

Cash is invited to a party with WorryFree CEO Steve Lift. Lift offers Cash a powdered substance which Cash inhales, believing it is cocaine. Looking for the bathroom, Cash discovers a shackled half-horse, half-human hybrid who begs him for help. Lift explains that WorryFree plans to make their workers stronger and more obedient by transforming them into "equisapiens". The transformation occurs when a human snorts a gene-modifying powder. Cash fears he just snorted the substance, but Lift assures him it was cocaine. Cash refuses a $100 million offer to become an equisapien and act as a false revolutionary figure to keep the employees in line.

Cash discovers he dropped his phone when he encountered the equisapien, who recorded a plea for help and sent it to Detroit's phone. To spread the video, Cash appears on television shows, including I Got the Shit Kicked Out Of Me, enduring humiliations and beatings to get the video played. The plan backfires. The equisapiens are hailed as a groundbreaking scientific advancement, and WorryFree's stock reaches an all-time high. Cash apologizes to Squeeze, Sal, and Detroit, and joins the union in a final stand against RegalView.

Cash uses a security code from the equisapiens video to break into Lift's home. He goes to the picket line, where the police start a riot and knock him out. The equisapiens overpower the police and free Cash. Detroit and Cash reconcile and move back into his uncle's garage, but Cash starts to grow horse nostrils. Fully transformed, he leads a mob of equisapiens to Lift's house and breaks down the door.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Riley speaks at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally in Emeryville, California, January 2016.

Boots Riley describes the film as "an absurdist dark comedy with aspects of magical realism and science fiction inspired by the world of telemarketing". The screenplay for Sorry to Bother You was inspired by his own time working as a telemarketer and telefundraiser in California, and his need to put on a different voice to find success.[6] Riley finished the screenplay in 2012, and with no means to produce it, recorded an album of the same title with his band The Coup, inspired by the story. The screenplay was originally published in full as part of McSweeney's issue 48 in 2014.[7]

In June 2017, it was announced that production would go forward on Sorry to Bother You, directed by Riley, and that Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson and Steven Yeun had been cast in the film. Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker, Jonathan Duffy, Kelly Williams, Charles D. King and George Rush served as producers on the film, under their Significant Productions, MACRO, and Cinereach banners, respectively.[8] The same month, Armie Hammer, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick and Terry Crews also joined the cast.[9][10][11] In July 2017, Danny Glover, David Cross and Patton Oswalt joined the cast,[12] with Kate Berlant, Robert Longstreet and Michael Sommers added later that month.[13]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography began on June 22, 2017, in Oakland, California[13] and concluded on July 30, 2017.[14]

It was rumored that Danny Glover's "white voice" was performed by Steve Buscemi, but Riley said it was actually the film's sound engineer.[5][not in citation given] Following the premiere at Sundance, producer Megan Ellison gave Riley $200,000 for reshoots and an additional scene.[4]

Music[edit]

The film score was composed and performed by Tune-Yards. Riley and The Coup recorded an original soundtrack for the film as well, slated to be released later in 2018. The first single, "OYAHYTT", featuring Lakeith Stanfield, was released July 13, 2018.

Themes[edit]

Capitalism[edit]

Boots Riley has said that the film offers a radical class analysis of capitalism,[14] not a specific analysis of America under President Trump. He wrote the initial screenplay during the Obama administration,[14][15] and the target was never any specific elected official or movement, but "the puppetmasters behind the puppets."[16][17] While most of the final script remained the same, minimal changes were made to avoid appearing to critique Trump specifically, including removing a line where a character says "Worry Free is making America great again,"[18] written before Trump used the line in his 2016 presidential campaign.

False consciousness[edit]

The film's title has a double meaning, referencing both the phrase's use by telemarketers and its general usage when telling a person something you know they might not like to hear, such as the film's anti-capitalist message. According to Riley, "the other side of it is that often when you’re telling someone something that is different from how they view things, different from how they view the world, it feels like an annoyance or a bother. And that’s where that comes from."[14] The plot of a strike was used to reflect the need to "organize people in the workplace" and for workers to recognize their power.[19]

When asked on his choice to cast Armie Hammer as Steve Lift, Riley said that Hammer was a "lovable dude" whose casting reflects the "new capitalism" in which the realities of working conditions are hidden, referencing lines such as "I'm not your boss, I'm your friend."[14]

Release[edit]

The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2018.[20][21] Shortly after, Annapurna Pictures acquired distribution rights.[22] It also screened at South by Southwest on March 12, 2018.[23] The film was initially scheduled to be released on June 29, 2018,[24] but was pushed back a week to July 6, 2018, where it began with a limited release before expanding wider on July 13.[25]

The film had difficulty getting international distribution.[26][27] On September 18, 2018, Riley announced that Universal Pictures and Focus Features had picked up its international distribution rights. It premiered at the 2018 London Film Festival, followed by a UK release on December 7.[1]

Sorry to Bother You was released on digital copy on October 9, 2018 and on Blu-ray and DVD on October 23.[28]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

As of December 14, 2018, Sorry to Bother You has grossed $17.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $374,088 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $17.9 million,[5] against a production budget of $3.2 million.[4]

The film earned $727,266 from 16 theaters in its limited opening weekend, for an average of $45,452, the fourth-best average of 2018. It finished 16th at the weekend box office.[29] It had its wide release, in 805 theaters, on July 13, alongside the openings of Skyscraper and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, and was forecast to gross around $3.5 million over the weekend.[30] The film made more on its first day of wide release ($1.5 million) than it had in its full week of limited ($1.1 million). It went on to gross $4.3 million over the weekend, an increase of 485%, finishing 7th at the box office.[31] The film was added to another 245 theaters in its third week of release and made $2.8 million, finishing 10th.[32]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 93% based on 260 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Fearlessly ambitious, scathingly funny, and thoroughly original, Sorry to Bother You loudly heralds the arrival of a fresh filmmaking talent in writer-director Boots Riley."[33] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 51 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[34] Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film an 84% overall positive score and a 72% "definite recommend".[29]

James Berardinelli of ReelViews said "Sorry to Bother You blends conventional comedy with political satire to produce a film that will generate laughter and a sense of discomfort in equal doses."[35] David Sims of The Atlantic wrote, "The story’s heightened reality works best when it’s barely distinguishable from our own—though it starts to lose steam the more it drifts into fantasy. The movie is at times a mess, but a compelling one, and this debut from Boots Riley should herald a fascinating filmmaking career."[36] Peter Debruge of Variety magazine praised the film, calling it "deliriously creative and ambitious to a fault", but expressed reservations about its second half: "As the movie’s allegorical relation to real-world problems blurs, audiences are left to wonder what Riley’s point is supposed to be."[37] Jesse Hassenger of The A.V. Club described the film as "often wildly funny, and if its broad arc is familiar stuff about a down-on-his-luck everyman experiencing success but at what cost, at least the plot specifics are unpredictable".[38] Randall Colburn of Consequence of Sound called it "a mess, but a glorious one" and said it "is fun until it’s overwhelming, and Riley would likely have benefited from a good editor."[39]

A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club reviewed the film at the Sundance Film Festival and dissented from his peers, calling it "a scattershot, intermittently pointed satire whose jokes and insights land with about the same (in)frequency." Dowd was critical of the writing and direction: "There’s a messy, first-draft quality to how the film fits said ideas together, and a general sloppiness to the execution, with Riley botching the timing on too many jokes ... Sorry To Bother You is plainly a first feature, and that’s no insult: Even as some of the film’s comedy fell flat for me, I distantly admired its something-to-prove chutzpah."[40]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Gotham Awards November 26, 2018 Audience Award Sorry to Bother You Nominated [41]
Best Actor Lakeith Stanfield Nominated
Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Boots Riley Nominated
National Board of Review January 8, 2019 Top Ten Independent Films Sorry to Bother You Won [42]
Directors Guild of America Awards February 2, 2019 Outstanding Directing – First-Time Feature Film Boots Riley Pending [43]
Independent Spirit Awards February 23, 2019 Best First Feature Boots Riley, Nina Yang Bongiovi, Jonathan Duffy, Charles D. King, George Rush, Forest Whitaker and Kelly Williams Pending [44]
Best Screenplay Boots Riley Pending

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 20th Century Fox handles North American home video distribution, while Universal Pictures and Focus Features handle overall international distribution.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Riley, Boots [@@BootsRiley] (September 18, 2018). "Sorry To Bother You will have it's UK premiere at the London Film Festival!!! It hits the rest of the UK on December 7th. Distributed outside of North America by Focus/Universal Pictures" (Tweet). Retrieved November 27, 2018 – via Twitter.
  2. ^ "SORRY TO BOTHER YOU - British Board of Film Classification". www.bbfc.co.uk. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  3. ^ "Sorry to Bother You". Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Institute. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Phillips, Michael (July 10, 2018). "Boots Riley goes from 'musician with a script' to potential hitmaker with 'Sorry to Bother You'". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2018-07-10. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "Sorry to Bother You - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  6. ^ Gross, Terry (July 2, 2018). "Boots Riley Mines His Experiences as a Telemarketer in 'Sorry to Bother You'". Fresh Air. National Public Radio. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  7. ^ Riley, Boots (2014). "Sorry to Bother You". McSweeney's Issue 48. McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. San Francisco: McSweeney's. ISBN 9781940450087.
  8. ^ Busch, Anita (June 15, 2017). "Tessa Thompson, Lakeith Stanfield, Steven Yeun To Star In 'Sorry To Bother You'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  9. ^ Busch, Anita (June 21, 2017). "Armie Hammer Joins Feature Drama 'Sorry To Bother You'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  10. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (June 22, 2017). "'Superior Donuts' Star Jermaine Fowler Cast In 'Sorry To Bother You'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  11. ^ Busch, Anita (June 27, 2017). "'Power' Star Omari Hardwick & Terry Crews Join Boots Riley's 'Sorry To Bother You'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  12. ^ Busch, Anita (July 26, 2017). "Danny Glover, David Cross And Patton Oswalt Join 'Sorry To Bother You'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Riley, Boots (July 26, 2017). "Boom All this amazing talent coming together to make Sorry To Bother You fly. You've never seen a movie like this. The cast is: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Steven Yeun, Omari Hardwick, Danny Glover, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Jermaine Fowler, Terry Crews, Kate Berlant, Robert Longstreet, and Michael Sommers". Instagram. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Boots Riley on How His Hit Movie "Sorry to Bother You" Slams Capitalism & Offers Solutions". Democracy Now!. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  15. ^ Riley, Boots [@@BootsRiley] (July 20, 2018). "Wrote it and published it during Obama presidency. We're in the same economic system, which is why it was relevant then and is now" (Tweet). Retrieved July 26, 2018 – via Twitter.
  16. ^ IMDb (2018-07-05), IMDb Show | Interview with 'Sorry to Bother You' Director Boots Riley and Star Lakeith Stanfield, retrieved 2018-07-26
  17. ^ Boots Riley On Why You HAVE To Watch 'Sorry To Bother You', & Using Your 'White Voice'. Retrieved July 26, 2018. Text "viaYoutube " ignored (help)
  18. ^ Morrison, Patt. "Boots Riley on power, organizing and who really runs the country. (Hint: It's not Trump)". latimes.com. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  19. ^ "Boots Riley of The Coup… on Communism, Corporatism, hip-hop, and the need to beat down scabs". Mark Maynard. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  20. ^ "2018 Sundance Film Festival: Feature Films Announced". Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Institute. November 29, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  21. ^ "Sundance Program Schedule" (PDF). Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Institute. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  22. ^ Lang, Brent (January 25, 2018). "Sundance: Annapurna Buys 'Sorry to Bother You'". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  23. ^ "Sorry to Bother You". SXSW Schedule. South by Southwest. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  24. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 9, 2018). "Annapurna Dates Films By Adam McKay, Babak Anvari & Sundance Acquisition 'Sorry To Bother You'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  25. ^ Riley, Boots [@BootsRiley] (March 9, 2018). "New release dates for Sorry To Bother You are as follows: July 6th in select cities. July 27th in every damn city in the United States. Stay tuned for international release schedule" (Tweet). Retrieved March 9, 2018 – via Twitter.
  26. ^ Wilkinson, Alissa (6 August 2018). "Sorry to Bother You is the latest victim of the movie industry's "black films don't travel" myth". Vox. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  27. ^ Nordine, Michael; Nordine, Michael (5 August 2018). "Boots Riley Says 'Sorry to Bother You' Isn't Playing Abroad Because Distributors Think 'Black' Movies Don't Perform Well". indiewire.com. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  28. ^ Riley, Boots [@@BootsRiley] (July 20, 2018). "Ay!!! #SorryToBotherYou will be available for digital download (in the US only) on October 9th!!!! It will be available on DVD/Blu-Ray and VHS on October 23rd!!! Also US only!" (Tweet). Retrieved November 27, 2018 – via Twitter.
  29. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 8, 2018). "'Ant-Man And The Wasp' Shrinks A Tick To $76M+ Opening, But Still 34% Bigger Than Original – Early Sunday Read". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  30. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 11, 2018). "'Hotel Transylvania 3' & Dwayne Johnson's 'Skyscraper' Vie For Prime Box Office Real Estate". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  31. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 15, 2018). "Why Dwayne Johnson Pic 'Skyscraper' Went Up In Flames At The B.O. With $25M+". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 15, 2018.
  32. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 22, 2018). "Shocker: 'Mamma Mia 2' Meets B.O. Waterloo As 'Equalizer 2' Is The No. 1 Winner That Takes It All With $35M+". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  33. ^ "Sorry to Bother You (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  34. ^ "Sorry to Bother You Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  35. ^ http://www.reelviews.net/reelviews/sorry-to-bother-you
  36. ^ Sims, David (6 July 2018). "'Sorry to Bother You' Is Fizzy, Flawed, and Fascinating". The Atlantic. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  37. ^ Debruge, Peter; Debruge, Peter (27 January 2018). "Film Review: 'Sorry to Bother You'". variety.com. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  38. ^ https://film.avclub.com/atlantas-lakeith-stanfield-headlines-the-inventive-som-1827286041
  39. ^ "Film Review: Sorry To Bother You Is a Glorious Goddamned Mess". consequenceofsound.net. 2 July 2018. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  40. ^ https://www.avclub.com/laura-dern-digs-deep-in-the-most-powerful-and-disturbin-1822326316
  41. ^ Elizabeth, Wagmeister (November 26, 2018). "Gotham Awards: A24 Sweeps With Five Wins, Including 'First Reformed, 'Eighth Grade' (Full Winners List)". Variety. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  42. ^ Lewis, Hilary (November 27, 2018). "'Green Book' Named Best Film by National Board of Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  43. ^ https://variety.com/2019/film/news/directors-guild-nominations-2019-bradley-cooper-1203102318/. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  44. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 16, 2018). "2019 Spirit Award Nominations: 'We The Animals' Tops With Five, A24 Leads All Distributors, Studio Classic Labels Come Up Short". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 22, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]