A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sorry to Bother You is a very mature satirical comedy with unreal elements. Written and directed by Oakland rapper Boots Riley, it includes disturbing, monstrous imagery, as well as fantasy-type violence and a bloody head wound. An art show involves audience members throwing bags of sheep's blood, bullet casings, and cell phones at a woman on stage (she's in charge). There's graphic nudity (both male and female) and explicit sexual situations. Language is extremely strong and pervasive, with almost constant use of "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word, and more. Characters drink socially (sometimes too much), as well as smoke pot and use cocaine; background characters smoke. It's not perfect, but it's rebellious, funny, and full of ideas.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) lives in his uncle's garage and has trouble making ends meet until he lands a job as a telemarketer for RegalView. But he's unable to make any sales until he receives (and follows) this advice from a co-worker (Danny Glover): "Use your 'white' voice." Cassius quickly rises through the ranks and gets promoted to the upper echelon of the company. He's suddenly making tons of money but must still regularly speak in his "white" voice (provided by David Cross). Meanwhile, Cassius' artist/activist girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), and his former co-workers attempt to unionize, while he's invited to a swanky party to meet the RegalView CEO (Armie Hammer). Cassius guiltily attends, but while trying to find the bathroom, he discovers what's really going on.
Is it any good?
This impossible to categorize movie starts off as a hilarious satire and then veers into territory so unexpected (and queasy) that it may alienate many. But others will find it a rebellious mess that's difficult to dismiss. Written and directed by Oakland rapper Boots Riley -- his filmmaking debut -- Sorry to Bother You has the makings of a cult film, à la other everything-including-the-kitchen-sink movies such sa Repo Man, Idiocracy, and How to Talk to Girls at Parties. It can be exhausting, and even its hero frequently looks simply bewildered, but it's so full of ideas -- and so outraged over racism, capitalism, and stupidity -- that it's worth a second look, or more.
Certainly the movie is raw and unevenly paced, and it sometimes feels more angry than fun, but fine performers like Stanfield, Thompson, Hammer, Glover, and Terry Crews bring much-needed sympathy and energy to their scenes. They're funny and appealingly flawed. And Riley's screenplay keeps taking risky twists, introducing strange new environments and elements, which may settle into a groove on subsequent viewings. Art band tUnE-yArDs provides the haywire music, and Riley's own group The Coup adds a song or two, just to heighten the sense of disarray. To be sure, Sorry to Bother You is here to bother you, and it's definitely not sorry.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Sorry to Bother You. Is it meant to thrill -- or to inspire discussion? Does it succeed?
Is the movie scary or disturbing? Which images are most unsettling, and why?
How does the movie depict sex? Are there examples of responsible, trusting sex? What are the alternatives?
What are some of the movie's messages? What does it have to say about corporations? Unions? Capitalism and selling? Do you think it has the potential to become a cult film? Why or why not?
- In theaters: July 6, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: October 23, 2018
- Cast: LaKeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer
- Director: Boots Riley
- Studio: Annapurna Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive language, some strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use
- Last updated: March 29, 2021
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