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Searing 'Sorry to Bother You' could be 2018's 'Get Out'

Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson star in this stylish, scathing and surreal assault on modern capitalism.

Sundance

I make no apologies for saying that "Sorry to Bother You" could be the new "Get Out". It's not a horror film and it's probably too out-there to achieve the mainstream box-office success of Jordan Peele's Oscar-nominated hit, but there are big similarities. It's the work of a first-time director known for another medium, it's got Lakeith Stanfield in it, and most notably it uses fantastical elements to throw a grenade under very real social issues.

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, "Sorry to Bother You" is something of a Sundance success story. Rapper turned writer and director Boots Riley worked his way through the festival's filmmaking mentorship schemes in previous years to become the toast of this year's event. His film was one of the most buzzed-about on this year's bill, and in a quiet year for distribution deals at the festival it's been picked up by Annapurna Pictures. Hopefully that means you'll get to see it for yourself some time in the not-too-distant future, because this wildly ambitious and outrageous satire really needs to be seen to be believed.

The film is headlined by a trio of the past year's breakout stars: alongside Lakeith Stanfield are Tessa Thompson from "Thor: Ragnarok" and Armie Hammer from "Call Me By Your Name". Also on board are Terry Crews, Danny Glover and Steven Yeun from "The Walking Dead", as well as a couple of bonkers voiceover cameos.

Lanky, likeable Stanfield is Cassius "Cash" Green, who discovers a talent for telemarketing and finds himself torn between loyalty to his fellow workers and an opportunity to grasp the brass ring of workplace success. The film opens in a stylised world of harsh reds and sickly yellows and office grotesques, and slowly spirals into an increasing skewed parallel reality somewhere between the warped weirdness of Charlie Kaufman and the off-kilter visual flourishes of Michel Gondry -- before making a final leap into the utterly surreal. 

Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson make no apologies in "Sorry to Bother You".

Sundance/Doug Emmett

It's packed with incendiary moments and provocative satire, blasting away at all manner of targets including but not limited to: the inhumanity of late-stage capitalism, corporate greed, police brutality, racial division, the sharing economy and Silicon Valley's headlong charge into the future.

The film deftly skewers the euphemisms of exploitation, euphemisms that rebrand working until you drop as an achievement and selling out your peers as getting ahead. The characters are tempted by signing away their lives to a corporation that owns them as essentially modern-day slaves, an indentured servitude euphemistically rebranded as becoming "Worry-Free".

In this scathing vision of modern free-market freebootery, each level of aspiration is revealed to be just another scam, whether it's an overcrowded VIP room in a bar or a workplace promotion that requires unspeakable sacrifice. And no matter how hard you work, no matter how much of yourself you give, it's never enough.

This searing assault on the world of work culminates in an increasingly barmy turn from Armie Hammer as a sociopathic Silicon Valley CEO. He's the sort of CEO who genuinely thinks he's inventing a new world, a caricature of the sort of disruption-happy entrepreneur who gave us such ill-thought out ideas as Soylent, Juicero and Bodega.

With so many targets, it's inevitable that not all the scattershot satirical strikes find their mark. But there's so much vigour and invention -- and so many flat-out hilarious moments -- that it's hard not to be swept along by the demented ingenuity on display.

Whether "Sorry To Bother You" has anything like the impact of "Get Out" remains to be seen, but it's easily going to stand up as one of the freshest and most unpredictable debuts of the year. Weird and unapologetic, it's very much worth the bother.

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