Sorry To Bother You is easily one of the year’s highly anticipated films of the Summer not to involve comic book heroes. Critics have been in love with rapper turned director Boots Riley’s trippy cinematic ride loosely based on his experiences as a telemarketer since its Sundance premiere. In the film, we follow unemployed Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) who quickly rises through the ranks of a telemarketing company when he masters the art of using his “white voice.”
SFPL’s own Bernard Smalls and other invited press got a chance to sit down with the film’s cast and director to discuss what is arguably one of the best films of the year. When asked what was one thing that resonated about this film for them the cast all agreed it was Boots’ story and his authenticity. Stanfield gets the Boot’s praise train rolling stating:
“I think the common thread here is this guy’s mind right here. He wrote some crazy story that like it moved us all in some way, form, or fashion and I think all of us to some degree knew it was an opportunity to, to embark on something unlike we’ve done before. Something really different. It was just a cool opportunity that Boots Gave us not only to explore this cool story, his mind, and give us the gift of his imagination but also for our careers to be able to stretch ourselves and get into this new world.”
His costars followed suit, Steven Yeun who plays Squeeze in the film added: “I think it’s the same thing. When you read a script that is this authentic. Anyone can make I guess a script that people haven’t seen before because you can just write a bunch of gobbledygook on it but Boots wrote a script where you read it, and you go this is something I’ve never seen before, but it’s also super honest in the way that it’s written.”
Omari Hardwick who plays Cassius’ boss Mr. Blank in the film had plenty of praise for Boots adding: “The hunger added to the brilliance that he put on the page and the story he had. To Lakeith’s point, we looked at it, and he was the common thread. There was hunger in Boots, so we also got on that train of hunger.” Tessa Thompson who plays Cassius’ free-spirited love interest Detroit raves about Boots making a fun film that still delivers a message. “I love making movies that are about something but I also just feel like, “How do we talk about old ideas in new ways? How do we make something that is vital and important and feels like a solvent but doesn’t feel like medicine?” And I thought that Boots did that. Making a film that is about something but is also just a fun ride as well,” Thompson adds.
The cast also spoke on whether or not they had to use “code switching” or in the case of the film “using your white voice.”
Lakeith: “There’s something I think unspoken in a young black kids household. If you want to go out and be something in the world you’re going to have to be white. Or you’re going to have to be whiter or you’re going to have to adopt something that is accepted in a whiter sense. And for little kids what does that really mean? And for little poor black kids what it means is that everything that you are and everything that you stand for is the antithesis of that.”
Tessa: “I felt, certainly early on in my career was like an expectation of like performative blackness. Why the hair color was significant to me, I recently had a conversation with a filmmaker about a role, and in the original screenplay, it’s written that the character I would play has pink hair and I was asking him about it. I’m not eager to have my hair look similar to Detroit anyways but I was like oh cool so what about this color hair, and he says oh that was when the character was going to be white. That’s when it was written for another actress. Which I just thought was interesting. The conversation is ongoing in terms of what this character will look like, but it was interesting to me.”
To wrap things up, Boots was asked what the one thing he wanted moviegoers to leave with after watching his film? His answer was fascinating stating he didn’t want viewers to exit the theater with just one message.
Boots: “I don’t want people to walk away with one thing you know. It’s kind of like what’s the one thing that you that you walked away from with Song Solomon or from Gabriel Garcia Marquez A Hundred Years of Solitude. I approach this in a way like a novel. With all these ideas I can tell you I have hopes and dreams for. There are some things that I’m hoping for more than others, but I want people to feel like I took so much from. You know how they have those movies where there is the one thing and that’s what the movies about and then they stretch it out, and they like damn I hope we can get 80 minutes out of this and you feel them stretching that out. That’s not this movie. I do hope overall there’s a feeling of that through the craziness, through all the fucked-up things that happened that there’s an optimism that has to do with the idea that as long as you’re fighting that’s the happy ending. There is no ending but that the happiness the optimism comes with fighting pushing back.”
Well said Boots, Sorry To Bother You hits select theaters July 6th, and nationwide July 13th. Do yourself a favor and make sure you see this film, we absolutely loved it and definitely think it’s going to garner plenty of Oscar buzz deservingly so.
Photo: Annapurna Pictures