Jump to content

Sorry to Bother You

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Sorry to Bother You (film))
Sorry to Bother You
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBoots Riley
Written byBoots Riley
Produced by
CinematographyDoug Emmett
Edited byTerel Gibson
Music by
Distributed by
Release dates
  • January 20, 2018 (2018-01-20) (Sundance)
  • July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06) (United States)
Running time
112 minutes[2][3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.2 million[4]
Box office$18.3 million[5]

Sorry to Bother You is a 2018 science fiction black 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 black telemarketer who adopts a white accent to succeed at his job. Swept into a corporate conspiracy, he must choose between profit or joining his activist friends to organize labor.

Principal photography began in June 2017 in Oakland, California. 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, concept, and soundtrack, as well as Riley's screenplay and direction.


Cassius "Cash" Green lives in his uncle Sergio's garage with his artist girlfriend, Detroit. Struggling to pay rent, he gets a job as a telemarketer for RegalView. Cash has trouble with customers until Langston, an older co-worker, teaches him to use his "white voice" and adopt a blithe, affluent persona on calls, 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, the lead Power Caller, Mr. _______,[a] tells Cash to always use his white voice. He learns that RegalView secretly sells military arms as well as cheap labor from the megacorporation WorryFree, through which employees sign lifetime contracts to work and be housed in factories, which many condemn as slave labor.

Though Cash is initially uncomfortable with the job, he is celebrated at work and can now afford a new apartment and a flashy new car, and pay off Sergio's house (in the process keeping him from joining WorryFree). Through his newfound success, he initially improves his relationship with Detroit and boosts his sex life significantly.

Cash stops participating in the union push and Detroit quits her RegalView job to avoid conflicting loyalties between the two, while secretly participating in the Left Eye Faction, an anti-WorryFree activist group. She eventually breaks up with Cash, arguing that his immoral job has changed him, while he insists he has the right to be proud of his success.

When Cash is escorted through the union's picket line one morning, a picketer wounds him with a can of soda. Footage of the incident becomes an Internet meme; the thrower profits from it herself, even signing a sponsorship with the soda brand she threw.

Cash then attends Detroit's art exhibit and artistic performance uninvited, at which she uses a white voice of her own. He tries to stop the event, but that only motivates Detroit to kick him out; afterwards, she has everything but sex with Squeeze.

Cash is invited to a debaucherous party with WorryFree CEO Steve Lift, where he is goaded into rapping for the predominantly white guests. Later, in a private meeting, Lift offers Cash a powdered substance which Cash snorts, believing it is cocaine.

Looking for the bathroom, Cash discovers a shackled half-horse, half-human hybrids¡ who begs him for help. Lift explains that WorryFree plans to make their workers stronger, more obedient, and thus more profitable by transforming them into hybrid "Equisapiens" through snorting a gene-modifying powder. Cash fears that he just ingested the substance, but Lift assures him it was cocaine. Cash refuses an offer of $100 million to become an Equisapien for five years to act as a false revolutionary figure to keep the employees in line.

Cash discovers he dropped his phone when he encountered the Equisapiens, who recorded a plea for help and sent it to Detroit. Taking advantage of his infamy as a meme, Cash appears on the extremely popular television show I Got the Shit Kicked Out of Me, enduring humiliations and beatings to share the video, to spread the word about WorryFree's cruelty. The plan backfires: Equisapiens are hailed as a groundbreaking scientific advancement, a cult of personality worshipping Lift develops, and WorryFree's stock price reaches an all-time high.

Cash apologizes to Squeeze, Sal, and Detroit, and rallies the union in a final stand against RegalView. He uses a security code from the Equisapien's video to break into Lift's home. He goes to the picket line, where the police start a riot and detain Cash, but the Equisapiens overpower them and free him.

Detroit and Cash reconcile and later move back into Sergio's garage. Cash suddenly starts to grow horse nostrils. Later, fully transformed, he leads a mob of Equisapiens to Lift's house and breaks down the door.



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.[7] 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.[8]

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 and Forest Whitaker of Significant Productions served as producers, along with Jonathan Duffy, Kelly Williams, Charles D. King and George Rush. Financing was provided by Significant Productions, MACRO, and Cinereach.[9] The same month, Armie Hammer, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick and Terry Crews also joined the cast.[10][11][12] In July 2017, Danny Glover, David Cross and Patton Oswalt joined the cast,[13] with Kate Berlant, Robert Longstreet and Michael Sommers added later that month.[14]


Principal photography began on June 22, 2017, in Oakland, California,[14] and concluded on July 30, 2017.[15]

It was rumored that Steve Buscemi performed Danny Glover's character's "white voice", but Riley said it was actually the film's sound engineer,[7] Ryan Coursey.

Following the premiere at Sundance, producer Megan Ellison gave Riley $200,000 for reshoots and an additional scene.[4]


The film score was composed and performed by Tune-Yards. Riley and The Coup recorded an original soundtrack for the film as well, which was released June 13, 2018.[16][17] The first single, "OYAHYTT", featuring LaKeith Stanfield, was released July 13, 2018.

Sorry to Bother You: The Soundtrack track listing
1."OYAHYTT" (feat. LaKeith Stanfield)4:13
2."Hey Saturday Night" (feat. Tune-Yards)4:14
3."Anitra’s Basement Tapes"5:49
4."Whatthegirlmuthafuckinwannadoo" (feat. Janelle Monae)3:42
5."Monsoon" (feat. Killer Mike)3:57
6."Level It Up"3:55
7."Out And Over/Sticky Sunrise" (feat. Janelle Monae)3:20
8."We Need An Eruption"2:49
9."Crawl Out The Water" (feat. E-40)3:45



Boots Riley has said that the film offers a radical class analysis of capitalism,[15] not a specific analysis of the United States under President Donald Trump. He wrote the initial screenplay during Barack Obama's administration,[15][18] and the target was never any specific elected official or movement, but "the puppetmasters behind the puppets".[19][20] 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",[21] written before Trump used the line in his 2016 presidential campaign.

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 they might not like to hear, such as the film's anti-capitalist message. According to Riley, "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."[15] The plot of a strike was used to reflect the need to "organize people in the workplace" and for workers to recognize their power.[22]


Riley presenting the film with cast members Terry Crews, Jermaine Fowler, and Michael Sommers

The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2018.[23][24] Shortly after, Annapurna Pictures acquired distribution rights.[25] It also screened at South by Southwest on March 12, 2018.[26] The film was initially scheduled to be released on June 29, 2018,[27] but was pushed back a week to July 6, 2018, where it began with a limited release before expanding wider on July 13.[28]

The film had difficulty getting international distribution.[29][30] 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.[31][32]


Box office[edit]

As of December 14, 2018, Sorry to Bother You has grossed $17.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $792,464 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $18.3 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.[33] 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.[34] The film made more on its first day of wide release ($1.5 million) than it had in its full week of limited release ($1.1 million). It went on to gross $4.3 million over the weekend, an increase of 485%, finishing 7th at the box office.[35] The film was added to another 245 theaters in its third week of release and made $2.8 million, finishing 10th.[36]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 93% based on 311 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."[37] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 51 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[38] Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film an 84% overall positive score and a 72% "definite recommend".[33]

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."[39] 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."[40] 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."[41] 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".[42] 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."[43]

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."[44]


Accolades for Sorry to Bother You
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result
Gotham Awards[45] November 26, 2018 Audience Award Sorry to Bother You Nominated
Best Actor LaKeith Stanfield Nominated
Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Boots Riley Nominated
National Board of Review[46] January 8, 2019 Top Ten Independent Films Sorry to Bother You Won
Directors Guild of America Awards[47] February 2, 2019 Outstanding Directing – First-Time Feature Film Boots Riley Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards[48] February 23, 2019 Best First Feature Boots Riley, Nina Yang Bongiovi, Jonathan Duffy, Charles D. King, George Rush, Forest Whitaker and Kelly Williams Won
Best Screenplay Boots Riley Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c In every mention of the film, Mr. _______'s name is covered up by a bleep censor.
  1. ^ a b Riley, Boots [@@BootsRiley] (September 18, 2018). "Sorry To Bother You will have its 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. Archived from the original on July 24, 2018. 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 "Sorry to Bother You - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  6. ^ Plante, Corey (July 6, 2018). "'Sorry to Bother You' Spoilers: The White Faces Behind the White Voices". Inverse. Bustle Digital Group. Retrieved July 30, 2021.
  7. ^ a b 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.
  8. ^ Riley, Boots (2014). "Sorry to Bother You". McSweeney's Issue 48. McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. San Francisco: McSweeney's. ISBN 9781940450087.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Busch, Anita (June 21, 2017). "Armie Hammer Joins Feature Drama 'Sorry To Bother You'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  11. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (June 22, 2017). "'Superior Donuts' Star Jermaine Fowler Cast In 'Sorry To Bother You'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Busch, Anita (July 26, 2017). "Danny Glover, David Cross And Patton Oswalt Join 'Sorry To Bother You'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  14. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 2021-12-24. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d "Boots Riley on How His Hit Movie "Sorry to Bother You" Slams Capitalism & Offers Solutions". Democracy Now!. 2018-07-17. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  16. ^ "Sorry to Bother You (2018) Soundtrack - Complete List of Songs | WhatSong". What-song.
  17. ^ Johnston, Maura (22 August 2018). "Review: The 'Sorry to Bother You' Soundtrack Bursts With Genre-Blurring Surrealism". Rolling Stone.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Tim Kash (2018-07-05). IMDb Show | Interview with 'Sorry to Bother You' Director Boots Riley and Star Lakeith Stanfield (video). IMDb. Retrieved 2018-07-26 – via YouTube.
  20. ^ Boots Riley On Why You HAVE To Watch 'Sorry To Bother You', & Using Your 'White Voice' (video). Retrieved July 26, 2018 – via YouTube.
  21. ^ Morrison, Patt (18 July 2018). "Boots Riley on power, organizing and who really runs the country. (Hint: It's not Trump)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  22. ^ Maynard, Mark (2012-11-28). "Boots Riley of The Coup… on Communism, Corporatism, hip-hop, and the need to beat down scabs". Mark Maynard. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  23. ^ "2018 Sundance Film Festival: Feature Films Announced". Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Institute. November 29, 2017. Archived from the original on December 22, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  24. ^ "Sundance Program Schedule" (PDF). Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 14, 2018. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  25. ^ Lang, Brent (January 25, 2018). "Sundance: Annapurna Buys 'Sorry to Bother You'". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  26. ^ "Sorry to Bother You". SXSW Schedule. South by Southwest. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ The Coup (2018-09-27). "#SorryToBotherYou available in the U.S. for digital download on October 9th, and on Blu-Ray/DVD October 23rd! You can preorder it now on various platforms and services". Facebook. Retrieved 2021-03-19.
  32. ^ Riley, Boots [@@BootsRiley] (October 1, 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.[dead link]
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ "Sorry to Bother You (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  38. ^ "Sorry to Bother You Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  39. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Sorry to Bother You". Reelviews Movie Reviews. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  40. ^ Sims, David (6 July 2018). "'Sorry to Bother You' Is Fizzy, Flawed, and Fascinating". The Atlantic. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  41. ^ Debruge, Peter (27 January 2018). "Film Review: 'Sorry to Bother You'". variety.com. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  42. ^ Hassenger, Jesse (2 July 2018). "Atlanta's Lakeith Stanfield headlines the inventive, sometimes exhausting satire Sorry To Bother You". Film. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  43. ^ "Film Review: Sorry To Bother You Is a Glorious Goddamned Mess". consequence.net. 2 July 2018. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  44. ^ Dowd, A. A. (23 January 2018). "Laura Dern digs deep in the most powerful and disturbing of Sundance's potential winners". The A.V. Club. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  45. ^ 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.
  46. ^ Lewis, Hilary (November 27, 2018). "'Green Book' Named Best Film by National Board of Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  47. ^ Dave McNary (January 8, 2019). "Directors Guild Nominees Include Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuarón". Variety.
  48. ^ 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]