Let's Overanalyze the Trailer for Boots Riley's 'Sorry to Bother You'

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Tessa Thompson and Lakeith Stanfield in 'Sorry to Bother You.' (Courtesy of Annapurna Pictures)

If you've been counting down the days until this summer's release of Sorry to Bother You, the Oakland-filmed, Oakland-set feature from first-time writer and director Boots Riley, this might help ease the pain of waiting: The official trailer has arrived, and I’m here to overanalyze it.

In the first three seconds, stuff’s already weird.

Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) flips through channels on a television set and frenetic clips play in rapid succession. We see him and his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) kiss in front of coordinated backup dancers while the text “Have a Cola And Smile Bitch” frames their pose. Then: Riot cops and protesters clash. Chaos! Then: A gleeful Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) appears on bizarro CNN with the chryon, “Worryfree Genetic Advancements Cause Largest Stock Market Rally in History.”


I know what you’re saying to yourself. How could all these scenes possibly coexist within the same movie? And there's still two and a half minutes left in this trailer?

The preview sets Cash up as a hapless hero. He drives around in a beat-up car that he fills with 40 cents' worth of gas at a time. He and Detroit try to canoodle in his room, but when one of the walls suddenly disappears, it turns out he lives in his uncle’s garage (Terry Crews) — and he owes rent.

It’s when we see Cash with a new job in telemarketing that the surreal visuals promised in the opening sequence return. As he cold-calls a family, Cash and his work desk drop jarringly into their living room. He’s barely halfway through the titular phrase before he gets hung up on. One more fail.

Enter coworker Langston (Danny Glover) with some sage advice: “You want to make some money here, use your white voice.” Boom, Cash's mind is blown. His voice now dubbed by David Cross, Cash high fives his manager at work, pops a champagne bottle and gets promoted upstairs as a “power caller.”

Cue a fast-paced montage of Cash climbing the executive ladder: a gold elevator that talks, Omari Hardwick in an eyepatch and mutton chops, more riots, mostly white business folks toasting each other while perched on oversized blonde hardwood stairs. There's clearly something nefarious about the upper levels of this company.

Meanwhile, a crisis of conscience looms. “They’re not selling what we’re selling,” says Langston, ominously. Detroit isn’t into the new suit-wearing Cash. And like many hapless kindhearted guys who experience meteoric rises to success, Cash finds himself questioning just how he got here. Then a bottle of "cola" hits him in the head. A callback to that opening sequence, perhaps?

A seemingly coked-up gun-wielding Steve Lift appears once more to lure a terrified-looking Cash back to the dark side with a monetary offer, and we're out: the trailer is over, and meanwhile, stars like Patton Oswalt promise that the film itself is even crazier than this short teaser. (Four words: genetically modified horse people.)

Stray observations:

Tessa Thompson’s style in every single scene is second to none.

Steven Yeun plays a character named Squeeze, but we don't get any clues about his role in the film beyond a fairly impressive sign-twirling display.

The thrill of seeing a BART train in a major motion picture will never ever get old.

Sorry to Bother You comes to theaters on July 6.