To simply label Sorry, Haters misguided or preposterous is to undersell its out-of-its-gourd daffiness. An apparent attempt to address post-9/11 anxieties and strained American-Muslim relations via the guise of a thriller, Jeff Stanzler’s DV-shot fiasco isn’t the only movie to touch upon contemporary issues of faith, culture, and terrorism in a callow bid for fashionable relevance. But it may be the first to posit, with a (seemingly?) straight face, a contemporary world in which domestic terrorism is actually the tool of wacko Americans intent on elaborately framing Muslims for catastrophic murder in order to nourish their own low self-esteem.
Beginning as a Manhattan-set variation on Collateral, Stanzler’s unpredictably plotted film focuses on Ashade (Abdellatif Kechiche), a devout Syrian Muslim and cab driver whose life is turned upside-down when he picks up Phoebe (Robin Wright Penn), a staffer at music video channel Q-Dog that’s home to a Cribs-style show with the same title as this film. Driving out to Englewood Cliffs, NJ, ostensibly so Phoebe can spy on her ex-husband (Josh Hamilton) and his new wife (Sandra Oh)—as well as childishly vandalize their car—the pair develops an unlikely relationship over Ashade’s legal dilemma involving his Guantánamo-incarcerated brother, yet sinister ulterior motives lurk just beneath the racist Phoebe’s altruistic efforts to help Ashade save his sibling from internment. Without revealing any of Sorry, Haters’ nonsensical surprises, what ensues is a jumbled, semi-misogynistic collage of self-loathing, victimization, retribution, and derangement that proves mildly gripping—merely due to its mind-boggling ludicrousness—even as it says less than nothing rational about our jihad-wrecked age.
Though forced to contend with Stanzler’s digital video-ugly aesthetic and a blandly noble foil in Kechiche’s Ashade, the typically forceful Penn tackles her role with remarkable maniacal fervor. But since said unhinged character exists somewhere on the outer edges of absurdity, the actress’s committed performance primarily makes one ponder what might have attracted her to such a monumentally harebrained enterprise.