The wildest and most wildly talent-exuding movie I saw was Boots Riley’s debut feature, Sorry to Bother You, a title so misleading that it’s a universe beyond irony. . . . The movie is smart, outrageously funny, deadly serious, buoyantly acted, and it moves to a hip-hop score that’s largely by The Coup. In less dire times, I would have dubbed Riley’s vision lysergic, but that would be to ignore the world we wake to everyday, and I know I haven’t dropped acid in my sleep.
Directed by the musician Boots Riley, making his exuberant feature debut, this freewheeling social satire tracks the increasingly surreal adventures of a telemarketer (Lakeith Stanfield), whose life takes an outlandish, dangerous turn when he chooses success over solidarity, a development with stinging political resonance. Often guffaw-out-loud funny, the movie pretty much slips into something of a mess but remains a must-see.
Stanfield holds the film together with his lanky ambling and his odd humor, which has a way of being both alienating and attractive; his deep intelligence really comes through in the part. Hammer, too, comes off as super smart and so game. Despite many bold stylistic touches, including a Wayne Thiebaud color palette that perfectly captures the look of Oakland, Riley does his best as a director to not hamper his brilliant actors, and allowing them to vibe off each other.