The fast modernising world has left little space for individualism. Cold calls, mass outreach programs, and corporate megalomania dominate social interactions in our contemporary times, creating for us a superficial world far resigned from reality. ‘Sorry To Bother You’ tries to throw light on that and probes into modern-day consumerism through the lens of race relations and class divide. Directed by debutant Boots Riley, the eccentric augur-like prophetization revolves around the journey of Cassius Green from rags to riches and the simultaneous changes in his personal life. Laced with clever writing and some of the best dark humor presented on-screen in recent years, ‘Sorry To Bother You’ blends fundamental axioms of labor economics with politically charged motivations to realize its ambition of creating a juxtaposed universe that familiarizes the audience with its competing misconceptions about the world.
While the film clearly tags social justice in its curriculum, it doesn’t center around that. Riley attempts to gauge the attention of the viewer towards a larger, universal issue of labor exploitation. The ironically named WorryFree in the film is a representative of innumerable organizations working around the world that practice something called corporate slavery. Countless white and blue collar jobs are undercut in wages and overburdened with work until late hours. The falling global economy compels contraction to such jobs and effectively ensures the concentration of wealth in the hands of few. The idea, quite frighteningly, stems from the current situation in the States, where more than half the country’s wealth is held by one percent of the population. The issue of wage inequality invariably births racial disparity, which Riley explores through the refreshingly original metaphor of the ‘White Voice’.
Riley’s background as a social activist heavily influences the underlying tones of political wanderlust in the narrative. Its physical manifestation is a spectrum of well-developed characters, who fit seamlessly in the scheme of things. His perception of contemporary free-market and labor economics drive an emotive story that is universally relatable and accessible.
The plot of the film revolves around the life of Cassius Greene, an unemployed man desperately in need of a job. He gets one at a local telemarketing firm, RegalView, despite lying on his resume and about his qualifications. The claims so made land him the job, proving how trivial its nature is. Cash’s girlfriend, Detroit, is a free-thinking woman and is secretly a part of a radical organization called ‘The Left Eye’, which is birthed as a revolt against the illegal and inhumane practices of WorryFree. When Cash starts work, he underperforms due to the customers not ‘trusting’ him. When a veteran offers kind advice to change his voice to the ‘White Voice’, Cash tastes instant success and connects with the people he calls thereon. The newfound popularity doesn’t go unnoticed as his boss informs him of a promotion to the pious upper floor, where salesmen are known as the Power Callers.
Squeeze, a fellow employee, concocts a plan to unionize and protest against RegalView’s unethical and unproportionate work-pay schemes. Cash and Detroit become a part of the protest, with the former expecting to be fired, but instead is pleasantly surprised when he gets a promotion to the upper floor. To his amazement, Detroit’s conspiracy theories about the selling of human labor by WorryFree turns out to be true. The ‘Power Callers’ internationally sold arms and labor to potential and willing buyers. Even though the practice is unethical and illegal, the pay is enormous, which convinces Cash to continue without saying anything. He uses the money to buy a new house and a boisterous life with his girlfriend, who finally confronts him about his job. The relationship between the two gradually deteriorates. In the midst of this all, Cash is invited to an exclusive party by owner and CEO of WorryFree, Steve Life, to his house. When at the party, Cash accidentally stumbles upon a mystical and unreal horse-man mutant, which he believes to be a hallucination induced by his drug intake on the night. When he confronts Lift about the same, he bears witness to a program in works by WorryFree which plans to create a serum which will convert humans into half horses to boost their work productivity.