‘Sorry to Bother You’ Has a Mind-Melting Plot Twist for the History Books

Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius "Cash" Green in Sorry To Bother You

Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius “Cash” Green in Sorry To Bother You

Went to see Sorry to Bother You on Sunday evening and was blown away by the plot twist.

I’ve seen a lot of promos and ads for Boots Riley‘s first feature-length movie starring ‘that guy from Get Out‘ (Lakeith Stanfield), Jermaine Fowler, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer, Tessa Thompson, and features the ‘white’ voices of David Cross and Patton Oswalt. It’s billed as a comedy and takes place in an alternate reality. It’s abstract and ‘high concept’ but I didn’t think it would take the path it did towards the end. I completely missed the boat on it being ‘sci-fi’.

The Boston Globe told us why we should be thankful for STBY, GQ called it “The Most Essential Film of the Year“, and Politico said it was “2018’s Sharpest Political Satire“. I saw the high scores on Rotten Tomatoes and the critical praise. I remember seeing the trailer and thinking this looks fresh and feels different even if it does fall into the red hot, seemingly never-ending trend of dropping a big fat turd on white people.

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It being a Sunday, I was already apprehensive and anxious. Seeing a movie that positions you as the loser / villain / oppressor / enemy based on your skin color doesn’t really make the internal strife go bye bye. I told my friend about how I’m getting tired of the ‘white people suck’ narrative and he said that even though I see myself as an innocent bystander, I’m complicit in the system that benefits white people and suppresses other races, adding that I’m a German in Nazi Germany. Faaaaaaaaaaantastic!

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The movie essentially confirmed much of what my friend said but I still liked it. I do enjoy me some good ol’ fashioned self-loathing. It loaded up the laughs in the first half and came down with the WTF hammer in the second.

Any story that can trick you into thinking you know what’s up then delivers something you weren’t expecting at all has chops on chops on chops. It’s the film’s ability to trot out a truly unbelievable plot twist and still fend off your disbelief that sets it apart from others. So, why isn’t this getting the kind of love and buzz that Get Out did?

There are spoilers ahead so if you haven’t seen the movie and want to, I’ll see ya later. If you haven’t seen the flick and want to read on, you’re a sadistic sumbitch and I respect that.

Here’s the quick logline from STBY’s IMDb:

“In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius ‘Cash’ Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a universe of greed.”

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So, Cassius gets a job at a telemarketing company called RegalView, rises up through the ranks after discovering his ‘white’ voice (thanks to Danny Glover’s character), becomes a well-rewarded ‘power caller’ while his coworkers are stuck not making any money and going on strike for better pay.

Throughout the movie, we see worrisome recruitment ads for WorryFree, a company that offers free room and food to workers while providing cheap manual labor (indentured servants) to clients. Those spots along with clips of the game show I Got the Shit Kicked Out of Me felt like a nod to RoboCop’s clips like I’d Buy That For a Dollar. Cash moves up through the ranks despite all the red flags and loses his friends and girlfriend, Detroit, in the process.

Then shit gets weird. And it doesn’t take its weird hoof off the weird pedal until the credits roll.

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The trip down the rabbit hole begins with an art show hosted by Detroit, Cash’s former girlfriend. Up to that point, we’ve seen Detroit as an eccentric creative. She sports eye-catching earrings and shirts with profound or funny sayings. We see her more as a wacky chick than a radical revolutionary.

At the art show, Detroit stands on stage in a trenchcoat, announces what she’s about to do and drops the coat to reveal an incredible bikini that looks like two leather gloves over her breasts and a third over her vagina. Just… wow. But that’s just the tip.

As Detroit recites lines from a movie (?), attendees chuck bullet shell casings, cell phones, and balloons of sheep’s blood at her. Cash tries to stop the violence but Detroit turns him away and presses on.

Stories thrive when there’s conflict and STBY has conflict out the ass. In that art show scene, you’re aroused by the provocative bikini then hit with senseless violence. The confusion is a fuel not a deterrent. More what’s coming next? instead of where is this going?

That volatile cocktail gets served again when Cash goes to a party at the mansion of WorryFree CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer).

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In a room full of partygoers, Lift demands that Cash raps. Cash says he doesn’t rap, he can’t rap, and he won’t rap. After a stern look from Lift and chants from the crowd, Cash stumbles through some bad lyrics then yells “N**** shit, n**** shit, n**** n**** n**** shit!”, which the (mostly white?) crowd eats up and repeats.

How the fuck are they gonna top that?  Welp…

As we move past a mess of naked people humping to see an exasperated Cash, Mr. _______ (they bleep out his name every time it’s mentioned), Cash’s direct report, tells Cash to meet Lift in his office, using his regular, non-white voice, calling it a great opportunity.

Cash goes. Lift offers him cocaine. Cash snorts it. Lift wants to propose something to Cash and is about to turn on a video to illustrate when Cash insists on going to the bathroom. Lift tells him where it is, Cash goes in the wrong door. THIS IS THE MOMENT MY HEART AND STOMACH AND EYEBALLS WERE TRYING TO LEAVE MY BODY.

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In the bathroom, Cash sees a stall that’s occupied. Inside the stall is something. BIG. Whatever’s inside the stall is large and in pain. It asks Cash for help, drawing him in closer then the door bursts open and some kind of creature falls out onto the floor. It screams. It’s very jacked, very naked and also has a very large penis. It’s also not CGI. There’s a very real feel to it, which adds to the horror.

Cash freaks out. Runs into Lift in the hallway. Lift brings Cash back to his office and turns on the video he wanted to play before Cash had to pee. The video is a clay-mation version of Jurassic Park’s DNA orientation video and shows Lift’s plan: WorryFree workers snort a powder that turns them into a half-horse hybrid.

Cash freaks out more because he just snorted a powder and is worried he’ll become a half-horse hybrid. Lift assures Cash it was just coke he snorted and proposes that Cash serve as the Martin Luther King, Jr of the horse-people (later known as equi-sapiens). In other words, this equisapiens will bind together, form a community, and try to revolt, so Cash will work the inside and keep them at bay.

A bugged-out Cash rejects Lift’s offer. Tries to tell people but sounds crazy. Can’t find his phone. Detroit comes over and says Cash sent him a video message but she hasn’t checked it out yet. They watch together and see the equisapiens crying out for help followed by Lift threatening them (on-camera).

To share the video, Cash goes on the world’s most-watched TV show (‘I Got the Shit Kicked Out of Me!’, 150M viewers nbd), gets the shit kicked out of him and plays the video.

(Play the song below while reading the rest)

Instead of WorryFree goin’ under, their stock skyrockets. A real kick in the half-horse dick. Cash joins his friends and coworkers at RegalView for a bigger, better protest. Things get rowdy and reinforcements show up to squash the protesters. Then, the equisapiens show up, dicks out, and run wild on the special forces / swat team.

RegalView’s policies are reformed, so not all is lost. Cash moves back into the garage that he shared with Detroit before he became a power caller. As Cash closes the door, he yelps in pain and holds his hands over his face. Detroit asks what’s wrong. Cash removes his hands to reveal what looks like a horse snout, a nod to the end of Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video (cue Vincent Price cackling). Cut to black.

Just when you think it’s over and you can breathe through your normal human nose and mouth again, Lift gets a call from his security gate. It’s Cash, now an equisapien, with a crew of equisapiens. They bust down the gate and Lift’s door to destroy the CEO. Cut to black for good.

The first words out of my face when I left the theater were, “How?” and “Why?” How were they (studio, producers, etc.) able to keep this twist under wraps? Why haven’t I seen ANYTHING about how twisted this twist is?

Think about how hard it is to keep a secret these days. Studios and producers do everything in their power to keep twists and endings under wraps. People sign contracts. It’s damn near impossible to avoid spoilers on the internet and somehow I did it. And I’m on the damn internet 8-12 hours a day.

I know I’m way late to the game on this one. Most outlets reported on how bananas the movie was back when it released in early July. But, that just makes the twist (and our collective ability to not blast it out everywhere) all the more impressive.

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Here’s Mashable’s explanation:

‘[Boots] Riley chose horses because of the cultural connotations, using the animals association with labor, domestication, and racism as a motif. “It’s all over our language: ‘strong as a horse,’ ‘working like a horse,'” he said. “Even ‘hung like a horse.'”‘

From Thrillist:

“Where did the idea for the equisapiens originate from?
Riley: A few things. I needed Cassius to see himself. I knew it was getting to that part of the movie. He needs to see who he is. So when he got to the party, I didn’t really know what was going to happen. And then the performance, and I thought, okay, this is going to be what makes him see himself. I sat with that for a day and I was like, does that make any sense? You have a world in which everybody is accepting slavery and now that he’s hawking their labor, I thought, there needs to be something that shakes him to his mortal core. Somehow I came up with the genetic manipulation idea. But one part of it is just an artist thing: Genetic manipulation has kind of been done, so what’s an animal that hasn’t been done and what also makes sense for Steve Lift?”

The Ringer chimed in:

“Clear out the fog of utter shock and it’s clear that the equi-sapiens serve a purpose: To emphasize points about how companies like WorryFree perceive their own beleaguered workers, how the endgame of capitalism is terrifyingly bleak, and how the government (and frankly, consensus public opinion) will forever side with moneymaking conglomerates.”

I was about to make comparisons to Get Out and talk about how Sorry To Bother You out-twisted Get Out (because the STBY twist came more out of left field whereas you had a better sense of the twist in GO) but that Ringer article linked to a tweet that introduced me to a new term, “caucasity”.

From Wiktionary: Caucasity (modern slang, especially African American Vernacular) Whiteness: the characteristic of being (stereotypically) white/Caucasian.

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A (white?) reporter said STBY is ‘this year’s Get Out’ and that is a very white thing to say apparently. So is saying “apparently”. I might be white as hell but sign me up for several more Boots Riley flicks.



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