There’s something so powerful about Boots Riley declaring in his debut, Sorry to Bother You, that black people are allowed to be a part of a movie with an alternate reality. This film is set in an alternate present-day Oakland and it follows Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) as he struggles to make something out of his life so that he can move himself and his girl Detroit (Tessa Thompson) out of his Uncle Sergio’s (Terry Crews) garage.
Once Cassius’ friend Salvador (Jermaine Fowler) hooks him up with an interview for a telemarketing job and he lands it, Cassius begins the climb up the corporate ladder, but only through the use of his “white voice.” I’m not talking about that super proper customer service voice that many of us use when we’re trying to make sure (insert company here) knows that we’ve been a loyal customer for years. I am talking about a white voice that sounds like it’s coming directly out of the mouth of actor David Cross (because that’s whose voice it actually is).
Cassius’ coworker Langston (Danny Glover) hips him to game and before you know it, Cassius is making sale after sale because he’s got the white voice to make it happen. Message! Cassius has found himself a way out of the struggle, but the real struggle comes when he realizes that his climb to the top comes at a price. Cassius essentially sells out.
During his coworkers’ protest against unfair wages, Cassius decides to continue working because the protest didn’t affect him. He was making real money, moved out of his uncle’s garage and living a life that he could only dream about. Abundance usually has a price. Cassius paid in losing the people around him.
Stanfield said, “This is a powerful story that speaks to a lot of us. Cassius Green is anyone who has ambition to do better and change their lives for themselves and their family. He finds freedom in the acquisition of money initially, because it gives him power to do things he’s never done before. But like so many people. he becomes blinded by material gain and ambition, losing what’s most valuable to him.”
Cassius faced a challenge of choosing the comforts of wealth over the peace and discomfort of being broke. In choosing money, Cassius experienced the rude and strange awakening of what CEO of the telemarketing company he worked for, Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) had in store for the fate of the world.
I will not spoil this for you, but just know that a lot of weird animalistic shit happens in this movie and you’ll kinda see it coming, but you won’t. Boots Riley put his foot in this one. Sorry to Bother You is Riley’s directorial debut and the film does so much to confront race, racism, greed, wealth, code-switching, selling out and so much more.
During my interviews with the cast and director, I brought up the Bible and the verse, Mark 8:36 which says: For what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul.
I asked Boots Riley, Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Omari Hardwick, Steven Yeun and Terry Crews to tell me if they believe one can acquire the world’s riches and still keep their soul. Check out their responses in the video above.
Also, do yourself a favor and see Sorry to Bother You on July 6.