A Thought-Provoking Double Bill

A couple of films where the execution doesn't quite match up to the ideas contained within them. But those ideas are likely to rattle around in your brain for a little while.....

Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018) is a darkly funny satire with some sharp concepts running throughout, even if it gets a little too surreal for its own good towards the end. Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is a young black man who takes a job as a telemarketer with corporate behemoth Regalview. He discovers that using his 'white voice' makes him more successful (this dialogue amusingly dubbed by David Cross), but soon finds out that there is more to Regalview and its clients than first meets the eye. There's a lot of fun stuff going on here, with thought-provoking ideas jostling for position as Riley takes aim at race, class, capitalism and institutional power structures. That aim is a bit scattershot, so the targets are merely wounded rather than exterminated, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't get shot at in the first place. It's original and creative and, despite the surreal plot turns, only a slightly exaggerated version of our corporate world today. If you've been convinced by this sales pitch, why not give it a go.

High Flying Bird (Steven Soderbergh, 2019) is a similarly provocative affair set in the world of basketball, with some compelling ideas propping up a plot that could have been tighter with a little extra polish. Shot entirely on iPhone 8, it follows a professional sports agent Ray (André Holland) as he challenges the traditional hierarchy of the sport during a period of power games between players and overseers, an event loosely based on the real-life NBA lockout in 2011. Primarily, the film uses the fictional drama to make real-life points about the commodification of players by sporting organizations, not least by pointing out how white team owners and lawyers have so much control over black basketball players’ careers and image rights. Thus, it's a lot more thought-provoking than most sports dramas, even if the drama itself plays second fiddle to the actual ideas being thrown around. In the end, though, as accomplished and entertaining as it is, it is still hard to shake the feeling that Soderbergh is content to take an relatively straightforward 2 points, when a more ambitious 3-pointer would have been possible with a little extra effort. Available on Netflix, by the way.

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