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Five Cent Cine At Home: Sorry to Bother You

With movie theaters closed, Five Cent Cine is shifting gears. “2 film critics” will continue our usual reviewing schedule of about 3 movies per month, now labeled Five Cent Cine At Home, with all of those films available streaming or for rent or purchase. Each review will list (at the top) the source(s) for you to access the film in your own living room or bedroom.

In addition, we’ll be posting a “Streamer of the Week,” a review from our catalogue (more than 110 reviews dating to mid-2016) of a film available for streaming—a way to revisit a film you’ve already seen or to decide you would enjoy.


Streamer of the Week: “Sorry to Bother You”

Available: Streaming on Hulu; rental or for purchase Amazon and elsewhere; see JustWatch here.


Black Man, White Voice

The film’s title is “Sorry to Bother You,” and that’s also the first line of the script that call center employees of the RegalView company are told to say when they get someone on the line. RegalView’s mantra is STTS —”stick to the script”— and the film’s protagonist, the appropriately named “Cash” (Cassius) Green (Lakeith Stanfield) dutifully conforms.

Green is a young black man, eager to please and make a few bucks to pay his uncle for rent and a car. He doesn’t sell anything. Not, that is, until he takes the advice of an older black man (Danny Glover) in the next cubicle: “use your white voice.” Using a high-pitched, clipped speech that stands for white (David Cross provides the white voice Cash lip-syncs), Cash becomes a super-salesman, then a “power caller” (big money), a position requiring him to talk “white” when at the office, whether he’s on the phone or not. It’s not long before he slips into his white voice while at home with his black girlfriend.

To succeed as a black man you’ve got to act white: that’s one of the humiliations that mark this film.

To succeed as a black man you’ve got to act white: that’s one of the humiliations that mark this film. Another, with a very different message, occurs at a lavish sex-and-drugs party given by the CEO, Cash’s new boss, Steve Lift, at Workfree (the company for whom Cash now makes calls), played to earnest white-guy perfection by Armie Hammer. Lift insists that Cash perform rap for him and a bevy of party girls. Cash is no rapper, and discovers the best he can do is belt out the repeated word “niggershit”— to humiliating (and white) applause. Here Cash learns that a black man (even one who talks white) must play to black stereotypes; think Stepin Fetchit.

“Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) wears the clothes of a successful businessman after he perfects his “talking white.”

More humiliations involve the black body. One takes place on a television program called “Kick the Shit Out of Me” — let your imagination run with that one. In one of the film’s most enigmatic and depressing scenes, Cash’s girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) — a serious, avant-garde artist—courts bodily humiliation. At the opening of her art exhibition, she speaks “white” with a bit of a British accent while inviting the audience to throw cell phones and balloons filled with pig blood at her; they comply. Yet another, bizarre humiliation brings the film into the realm of science fiction; “Get Out!” meets “The Shape of Water.”

If “Sorry” is on the cutting edge of the contemporary black mindset, in other ways it’s a traditional film. Efforts to confront a rapacious capitalism by unionizing the RegalView call center bring to mind late-19th century confrontations between workers and the private Pinkerton police and the 1937 Battle of the Overpass, pitting the UAW against Ford Motor Company, as well as 20th-century films, including “Last Exit to Brooklyn” (1989) and “Norma Rae” (1979). Cash’s predicament — to become successful seems to require that he abandon his friends, his values, and his culture — is also standard Hollywood fare.

“Sorry” fills out a trilogy of black films that use Sci-Fi and outrageous tactics and values attributable to white folks to highlight the black experience in America. Along with “Get Out” and “The First Purge,” it begins with a sensible premise, adds a good measure of humor, then pulls no punches in portraying a black populace under attack. In that sense too, these films are in step with the #blacklivesmatter movement.

Boots Riley’s writing and directing are compelling; his film is engrossing and well-acted. Like “Black Panther” and “Fruitvale Station,” it’s set partly in Oakland, California, adding to its grittiness. Unlike “Black Panther,” it doesn’t have a particularly happy ending.


Date: 2018

3 Stars (★★★) out of four stars

Director (and writer): Boots Riley

Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Danny Glover, and David Cross (voice).

Runtime: 111 minutes

Also see reviews on…

Midsommar

Hidden Figures

Ford v Ferrari

Captain Fantastic

First Cow

Seberg

Ordinary Love

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Uncut Gems

Les Misérables

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Bombshell

1917

Little Women

Marriage Story

Queen & Slim

The Irishman

Roma

Cold Brook

Jojo Rabbit

Pain & Glory ( Dolor y Gloria)

Joker

Parasite

Downton Abbey

Ad Astra

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The Goldfinch

Good Boys

Written by 2 Film Critics

2 Film Critics

William Graebner is Emeritus Professor of History, State University of New York, Fredonia, where he taught courses on film and American culture. He is the author or co-author of 11 books and more than 50 scholarly articles, including essays on “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” and zombie films as they relate to the Holocaust. Dianne Bennett, the first woman to head a large U.S. law firm, is a retired U.S. tax lawyer.

Dianne and Bill were early and passionate attendees at the Toronto Film Festival, and today enjoy the film scenes of Los Angeles, Rome, London, and Buffalo, New York. They began reviewing films for the Rome-based website “TheAmerican/inItalia” in 2016, have maintained a blog on Rome for a decade, and published two alternative guidebooks to the Eternal City. They still can’t resist going to the movies, not to mention the ensuing discussions, sometimes heated, over a bottle of Arneis at the nearest wine bar.

​And that's just the beginning of our reviewing process. For one or two hours we discuss the film, as one of us takes notes. The notetaker transcribes the notes and prints two copies. Dianne or Bill (usually depending on who had the most compelling understanding of the film, or who was most taken with it) writes the first draft of the review--supposedly taking into account the views of the other--which is followed by 3, 4, or even 7 more drafts. At some point, sometimes days later, when we're both comfortable with the result (or accepting of it, anyway), it's done.

https://www.2filmcritics.com

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