There are many messages in Boots Riley’s directorial debut Sorry To Bother You but don’t expect to grasp them all on a first watch. Paired with Lakeith Stanfield’s standout performance, the film leaves just enough room for audiences to react to the film’s insane ending, which is what Riley wanted all along.
Without giving away the film’s ending, Riley spoke with The Ringer Monday (July 9) about his intentions with the film. Per the trailer, STBY tells the story of Cassius (Lakeith Stanfield) and his journey into telemarketing. Topics of code-switching, capitalism, and racism come into play throughout Riley’s vibrant cinematic approach.
The rapper turned director explained his style of absurdist comedy. “There are so many things that are going on in this movie that happen partially, to keep [the] momentum going for something else,” he said. “There are details within details. By doing that, I’m able to make you ready for anything.”
The film came to fruition in 2012 and with the help of programs like the Sundance Institute, Riley was able to bring his vision to life. Riley says many were hesitant to stand behind the movie due to the very jaw-dropping ending.
Some people were like, “That’s a step too far. You had me until that,” he said. “I knew that I was doing something different enough to where some people weren’t going to go for it. It’s a game of stone and suit. You make a story where only you can tell it. There was no part of this that says, ‘This is close to that let’s make it like that.’
After the film was released to limited audiences last week, Riley believes moviegoers have a good understanding of the ending.
“It’s been getting the reaction that I hoped for,” he said. “I didn’t just want to show my character going through an emotional change. I wanted to take the audience, give them an experience right then that felt similar to those emotional exchange that comes when you’re exposed to new ideas and see the world differently.”
Don’t expect to catch all of the messages in the film. Riley broke down how the film should be digested as art.
“What is Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon trying to say? What is Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children trying to say? They’re saying a lot of things,” he added.
“If I made a song or a movie with one thing to say, shoot me. I would’ve just wasted your time and mine. The whole thing is art. I think that people got everything I wanted to say. My movie isn’t saying, ‘Speak your mind and everything will be fixed.’ It handles that subject but says something different from what we’re hearing.”
Sorry to Bother You arrives in theaters nationwide Friday, July 13. Check out the trailer below and the full interview here.