It’s been five years since director Boots Riley’s debut film, “Sorry to Bother You,” dominated conversations. With a skillful hand that created comedy with a hard-hitting social critique, “Sorry to Bother You” put Riley’s creativity and contributions to Afro-Surrealism on the map. The style he has implemented in this Film does not turn out to be a one-off, but rather a starting point when he appears in his new Prime Video series, “I am a virgin.”
The show follows Cootie (Jharrel Jerome), a 13-foot-tall, 19-year-old black man who grew up in Oakland. Jerome, best known for his dramatic work as Kevin in Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” and Korey Wise in Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us,” is stretching his legs (literally) into funky new territory with this series.
Cootie is protected. His adoptive parents (Mike Epps and Carmen Ejogo) keep him locked up in the house for fear that when people find out, he will be looked at, symbolized and finally eliminated. They scare him with headlines about the giants who preceded him, who no longer exist except in cemeteries, scientific laboratories or museums. When Cootie decides to venture out of her house against her will, we are equally skeptical but intrigued by how the world will welcome her. What follows is an absolute adventure of a coming-of-age story, packed with Cali culture, first love, friendship and biting social commitment.
The 13-foot Gimmick offers a range of body comedy and everyday hilarity. Cootie’s size is achieved thanks to the CGI, forced perspectives and practical doll-sized accessories, all of which work very well in Riley’s world. It’s incredibly cheesy and the pleasure of doing it remains, even if it’s not believable. Through tickling sequences, we learn how he eats.
Jerome embodies Cootie’s body and social awkwardness with a funny Empathy. His naivety leads us to see him a bit like his parents, with protective care. Jerome manages Cootie’s awkwardness and curiosity without infantilizing her, showing his comic side in the funniest moments. Whether it’s testing the romantic waters with the other “special” character of the show, the super-fast Bing Bang Burger worker Flora (Olivia Washington), pouring a plate of Tacos as if nothing had happened or helping her friends make two-wheeled donuts in their convertible, Jerome’s Cootie is a pleasure to meet
The follish is the truest commitment of the series and serves not only to laugh, but also to support the subject. A perfectly cast Walton Goggins plays “the hero”, a millionaire with a great Iron Man-style suit (but in the worst way). He is essentially a super cop on steroids flying over Oakland, praising the importance of law and order and alerting black teenagers that “three or more people wearing similar clothes can be prosecuted as a gang.”Goggins is absolutely crazy in his portrayal, but this is exactly what the series needs from a ridiculous antagonist.