Published by the American Bar Association
The Dealmaker's Ten Commandments provides a practical, no-nonsense
At the start of Sorry to Bother You, Cassius Green (Lakieth Stanfield), is struggling. He doesn't have a job, and he feels he has to lie about his employment history in order to get one. It turns out he doesn't, mostly because he's applying for a telemarketing job, and, as his boss explains, they'll take anyone. Shortly after starting his new job as a telemarketer, an old hand (Danny Glover!) clues him into the secret that will soon catapult him to wild success: Using his "white voice." Then things get weird.
If you look at the trailer, Sorry to Bother You appears to be a kinetic satire about a guy who sells out, adopting a voice that sounds like David Cross's instead of his own (because it is David Cross's) and rapidly ascending the corporate ladder at the cost of his soul. Cassius catapults from the drudgery of the phone banks to the cocaine highs of white-collar debauchery, a drug-fueled, cash-rich world that's happy to have him as long as he puts on a suit and doesn't forget his white voice. And yes, Sorry to Bother You is that, a story about how escaping poverty in America often demands that you erase yourself in exchange for a six-figure check—that is, if you have the luxury of being able to pass as a white man, at least on the other side of a phone.
As Cassius Green falls down the rabbit hole of white success, the world becomes more absurd, much the way it does when someone from poverty, beset by sharks on all sides, finds themselves among the monied class thrilling to the antics of a grifter named Anna Delvey. Every door becomes a portal to something nonsensically benign (A VIP room in a dive bar that hides a crowded club) or horrific-yet-normalized (a TV show where people just get the shit kicked out of them.)
The world of Sorry to Bother You is drawn with a verve and imagination that seem absurd until you stop and consider that its fictional trappings are the same as our real-world circumstance, just with less bullshit. In Sorry to Bother You, one of the biggest companies in America is a corporation called WorryFree, which offers outsourced manual labor in factories that it provides, complete with free housing (a cot) and meals for its workers—as long as they sign up for life. It feels like a natural extension of the world outside my door, where I can pay a company like WeWork for the privilege of staying in an apartment building with communal living and workspaces, all organized around the idea that what makes us all valuable is our capacity to generate wealth for a corporation that can't bother to employ me itself—and, of course, the freedom to enjoy a beer with my peers after 5 p.m.
Sorry to Bother You doesn't just hit harder than any of its contemporaries out to satirize the current moment, it hits further. It's a work that says no, it's not enough to just make fun of the rich people who helped make our world such a bizarre corporate dystopia. Silicon Valley does that, and the fact that it's been running for six years tells you the sort of bite it's interested in having. It is a comedy of complicity—our willingness to sell ourselves out, to resist organizing, resist valuing our labor, to recognize that America only respects wealth, and a company will command more wealth than any individual ever will—and therefore have its wishes respected, and its crimes forgiven.
Above all, Sorry to Bother You is honest. It is not a cautionary tale; it's too late for those. For all of its surreality and absurdism, Sorry to Bother You isn't a movie interested in warning us about calamity; it's a movie that is standing up, exasperated, to shout that calamity is here, and it's time to pick a damn side.