I do not know if Boots Riley watched Costa Gavras, but I just did, and 50(!) years apart, the link between Sorry to Bother You and Z couldn’t be more obvious!
Let me sum things up quickly. Sorry to bother you is Boots Riley’s last – and first film – notably staring Lakeith Stanfield. It is a brutal, acidic dark comedy about racial injustice, capitalism and the role everyone plays in this mascarade. Z, on the other hand, is a brutal, acidic dark comedy about racial injustice, capitalism and the role everyone plays in this mascarade. Joke apart, both movies tackle with brilliant humor how injustice is perpetrated by an unstoppable system in which the fight of insiders is as needed as it is doomed to fail.
While I am a firm believer in the political power of art, I also think that those films labeled “political” usually only convinced those who were already convinced (it would be just like asking a MAGA-cap wearer to vote for Trump). The true political power of a film comes from its ability to make one change its mind, by relating and feeling for whatever’s going on on screen. Many will cite the impact of Will and Grace to make homosexuality acceptable. Nowadays, diversity also plays a huge role in making viewers progressively accept the idea of the multicultural world we live in.
So what’s amazing about Z and Sorry to bother you? Well, although both films assume a clear political position, they are also hilarious and can be watched for many other reasons, including the one that makes people GO to the movies: humour! The fun, the satire, the goofiness, the suspense, the adventures, the modernity, all those ingredients make you wanna learn more, root for the characters and be a genuine, sympathetic audience, who leaves the theater (or the streaming service) thinking: DAMN WHAT A FUCKING SHITTY SYSTEM WE LIVE IN and yet have a huge smile!
Moreover - spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert - as sad and frustrating as it is, the sad endign of both films make them even more brilliant, because they give us a great piece of entertainment as well as a clear taste for our reality. Acidic indeed, because the screen exuberantly confronts us to what we all want to avoid. Until the end, we hope for one of these classic romcoms where the heroes win, but this time, the end is so realistic we can’t help but reflect on the world the way it is. And, again (and sorry to bother you), smile.
Do yourself a favour and watch both movies. You’ll get out of there wiser and younger – isn’t there’s nothing like a laughter to chase those wrinkles away?