Like ‘Sorry to Bother You’? Stream These Five Dark Social Satires Next
Posted July 9, 2018 5:39 p.m. EDT
Updated July 9, 2018 5:42 p.m. EDT
“Sorry to Bother You,” the debut feature film from Boots Riley (the frontman for the hip-hop group the Coup), is a social satire served up in the form of a fever dream, playing wild and loose with cinematic cues and viewers’ expectations. Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a twentysomething struggling to make rent while living in his uncle’s garage, lands a job as a telemarketer and quickly rises through the ranks because of his ability to tap into his inner “white voice.” This new position of power puts him at odds with his girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), and a colleague, Squeeze (Steven Yeun), who are simultaneously organizing a strike in protest of the company’s unfair labor practices.
Cassius also uncovers a sinister, far-reaching plot within the company’s top branch, and that is when things get very, very weird. After you have checked out “Sorry to Bother You,” which is currently in theaters, you may find yourself in the mood for more off-kilter lampoons of corporate greed and societal ills. Here are a few picks from film and TV to get you started.
Yeun also starred in “The Walking Dead,” and he sticks with the zombie theme in “Mayhem” — except this time, the setting is corporate and he is the leading man. He plays Derek, a sullen young lawyer who is exiting the office after having just been fired when the entire building is put under quarantine: "Red Eye,” a global virus that reduces the infected to their base instincts, has been detected, and it will be eight hours before the CDC can neutralize the situation and allow anyone to leave. With that, “Mayhem” warps into a chaotic revenge flick that doubles as a smart commentary on capitalist culture.
Where to watch: Amazon Video, iTunes, YouTube
This adventure film from Bong Joon Ho takes familiar elements — the unshakable bond between a child and her pet; the greedy, unsympathetic adults who threaten that bond — and uses them to create a biting environmentalist manifesto that still manages to feel wholly imaginative. Mija (An Seo Hyun), a farm girl from South Korea, is devastated when her beloved genetically engineered “super pig,” Okja, is whisked away to the United States to become food. This emotional narrative is supported by a great cast: Tilda Swinton, deliciously daffy as always, plays the chief executive who seeks to profit from Okja alongside Jake Gyllenhaal (in a truly bonkers performance), Paul Dano and Yeun (again!). Have some tissues handy.
Where to watch: Netflix
— ‘Atlanta’ Season 1, Episode 7: ‘B.A.N.’
Both seasons of “Atlanta” come highly recommended, but Episode 7 from the first season makes for a perfect chaser to the bizarreness of “Sorry to Bother You.” A departure from the show’s already unconventional storytelling style, “B.A.N.” drops you in the middle of a broadcast of the fictional talk show “Montague” on a BET-inspired network. Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) is a reluctant guest, brought on to discuss a polarizing tweet he wrote about Caitlyn Jenner, and the subsequent debate makes for a cutting commentary on political correctness in hip-hop and in black culture. Throw in the profile of a black teenager who believes he is actually a 35-year-old white man and the spot-on parodies of commercials that target black audiences, and you have got a very funny satire in just 24 minutes.
Where to watch: Amazon, Hulu, iTunes
— ‘Black Mirror’ Season 1, Episode 2: ‘Fifteen Million Merits’
In the engrossing second episode of this acclaimed British anthology series, people exist in an enclosed communal space made up almost entirely of video screens flooded with mindless entertainment and advertising. In order to purchase food, entertainment and other living expenses, they spend their days on exercise bikes, generating power in exchange for “merits.” Like “Sorry to Bother You,” “Fifteen Million Merits” is impressively deliberate in its world building, creating an environment that looks at once eerily familiar and uncanny. They also share a few common themes and details, including a critique of class and consumer habits and a fictional game show in which contestants are utterly humiliated. The episode also features a captivating Daniel Kaluuya, years before his performance in “Get Out.”
Where to watch: Netflix
— ‘Get Out’
While we are on the subject of “Get Out”: that instant classic from Jordan Peele is a sweet companion film to “Sorry to Bother You,” and not just because Stanfield leaves a lasting impression in both. Chris (Kaluuya) experiences increasingly unsettling discomforts when meeting his white girlfriend’s wealthy East Coast family for the first time, until, by the third act, the stakes have been raised significantly. As the events thrust fully into the realm of the surreal, the movie maintains its emotional truth. Nominated for a best-picture Oscar and the winner for best screenplay, “Get Out” is one of the most accurate on screen depictions of what it feels like to be othered as a black person in America.
Where to watch: Amazon, HBO Go, YouTube