JULY 5, 2018 -- One of my little known facts about me, is that I once was a telemarketer. Yes, I was one of those pesky Time-Life Libraries telemarketers who called at inconvenient hours to solicit a sale; usually from folks who were accidentally previous customers. In fact, that was the intro: "Hello Mr/Ms So & So, I'm Geoff Burton with Time-Life calling to see how those Home Repair and Improvement books worked out for ya!" It turned out I was pretty good at it; in the top ten in the branch.


Director writer Boots Riley did what I often joked about back then; he created a satirical look at telemarketers and added a diabolical corporate greed slant that makes his first feature film feel like it comes from some segment of his life. [Which it did]


He cast up and coming actor Lakeith Stanford in the lead as Cassius Green, a down on his luck guy living in the modified garage of his uncle Sergio (played by Terry Crews) who is demanding back rent. Staying with Cassius is his gorgeous, but socially rebellious girl friend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) who tolerates the laid back Cassius, though she doesn't like the garage.

Desperate for money, he goes to work for Regalview Telemarketing which will hire anyone who can sell. (The interview process is one of the hilarious moments of the film!) He's hired and immediately gets a tip from one of the veteran employees played by Danny Glover. The advice is to use "his inner white voice". To everyone's amazement, Cassius becomes the biggest seller in the office and on course to get one of the pie-in-the-sky promotions to the elitist level upstairs.


Detroit is happy, but concerned about the inner white voice taking over the Cassius she fell for. She too has come to work for Regalview and has joined with fellow underpaid employees for higher pay with benefits.


All of this is with another, fast-growing lifestyle company called Worry Free Living Solutions - run by Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) - that offers low income people alternate living in what amounts to prison conditions. We quickly learn that the elitist group of Regalview sell Worry Free as a cheap labor force to manufacturers. Everything explodes into a socio-economical commentary about corporate greed and politics.


The film runs one hour, forty five minutes with the first hour and fifteen minutes as rock solid comedy. David Cross provides the dubbed in white voice for Stanfield and it comes off flawlessly. Tessa, Danny and all the support cast provide spot-on well timed cues.


And then it seems Riley couldn't figure out how to end it. This leads to a final half hour that collapses into itself as a clumsy sci-fi horror dark comedy featuring half-man, half-horse creatures called equisapiens that are to be the future of labor. The ending is literally unfunny and nearly kills the entire film had it dragged on even one more minute.


Riley however demonstrates unique satire and social commentary that will remind you of last years "Get Out" and even Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It" - comedies that succeeded in poking fun at society.


"Sorry to Bother You" is a very good first effort for novice director Boots Riley and a predominantly young cast sprinkled with trusty veteran talent. Though the ending degenerates, there is no denying the first half comic genius.   -- GRADE B --   GEOFF BURTON