Bottoms Movie Review — . (2024)

Director Emma Seligman has made the next great teen sex comedy by parodying all the ones that have come before it. At the same time, Bottoms also wickedly satirizes David Fincher’s Fight Club. It’s unapologetically queer, giddily violent, and subversively hilarious. With her two stars, Rachel Sennott – who helped write the screenplay with Seligman – and Ayo Edebiri, the trio have crafted the kind of comedy that makes you laugh out loud at least once every scene by wielding a gonzo and cutting sense of humor.

It only takes about ten minutes of watching it to realize how off-the-wall this wild depiction of the modern high school experience will be. It was the moment when I realized that all of the football players at Rock Ridge High School wear their uniforms, complete with full pads, to every class that I knew Bottoms had its sense of farce cranked to eleven. It doesn’t pay off until near the climax of the film, but early on, if you’re paying attention, you see one of the football players confined in a cage in the background of a classroom.

We begin with our heroes getting ready to attend a back-to-school festival on the eve of their senior year. Lesbian best friends PJ, played by Sennott, and Josie, played by Edebiri, are lamenting that high school is almost over and they are both on track to graduate as virgins. Both have crushes on popular cheerleaders. Josie dreams of romance with Isabel and PJ is desperate to hook up with Isabel’s best friend Brittany.

The two cheerleaders are attached at the hip, one saying of the other that she basically defines her sense of self through her best friend, leading her to simply do whatever her friend does. Isabel’s boyfriend is football star quarterback Jeff, an empty-headed jock who, to his girlfriend’s dismay, can’t keep it in his pants.

A cringeworthy (and hilarious) exchange between the quartet of young women at the festival sees PJ attempt to woo Brittany by convincing her she doesn’t need to practice bulimia in order to look good. The former tries to convince the latter to share a hot dog with her. PJ awkwardly runs through the basics of digestion by telling Brittany she thinks it would be totally cool if Brittany ate the hot dog – including the bun! – let it digest, and then pooped it out.

Because Josie has her arm in a sling due to routine clumsiness during the summer break, a rumor gets started – with the enthusiastic support of PJ – that both of the young women spent the summer in juvie, forced to fight to the death to survive.

As PJ and Josie get ready to leave in Josie’s car, frustrated by their lack of romantic progress, they witness Isabel and Jeff in a fight caused by Jeff flirting with other girls. Isabel jumps into the car at Josie’s prompting, but Jeff blocks their way, insisting that Isabel get out of the car. Josie ever so slightly allows the car to nudge forward, which gently butts up against Jeff’s kneecaps. He immediately falls to the ground like he’s been hit by a Mack truck.

The rest of the football team spots Jeff’s distress and rushes to console him. Jeff’s teammate, Tim, cries to the heavens at his friend’s misfortune. The first football game of the season is against the dreaded Huntington High Ferrets, who plan dastardly acts against Rock Ridge each year in the run up to the heated rivalry game.

The next day, the first day of school, PJ and Josie are summoned via loudspeaker announcement. “Could the ugly, untalented gays please report to the principal’s office?” The principal, played with smarmy oiliness by character actor Wayne Péré, threatens to expel the pair until they tell him the altercation with Jeff was a result of their female self-defense training. PJ does a song and dance about how she and Josie will be forming an extracurricular club for female empowerment and self-defense.

PJ devises this high school, all-female fight club as a way to be in close proximity to hot girls she hopes to bed. After they convince their teacher, Mr. G, who is going through a divorce, to sponsor their club by selling him on being an ally to women, the girls put their plan into action. Meanwhile, Tim is determined to get revenge on the pair and plots to expose the club once it begins to rival the popularity of his beloved football team.

If all this doesn’t sound bonkers enough, Seligman did a bit of inspired stunt casting by convincing former NFL superstar Marshawn Lynch to join the project. Beast Mode was initially apprehensive about taking the part of Mr. G – who Seligman stages in one scene reading a p*rn mag titled Divorced & Happy as his students leave class – because of his lack of formal acting training. Seligman loved Lynch’s ad-libs during his guest turn on the Netflix comedy series Murderville and thought he would be perfect for Bottoms. What sealed the deal, according to Lynch, was the fact that he has a queer sister, making the gay-themed comedy resonate with him.

Bottoms really soars on the performances of, and the comedic chemistry between, its two leads, Rachel Sennott as PJ and Ayo Edebiri as Josie. The two women are in perfect sync here, feeding off each other’s energy. The goofy, anything goes humor of the picture is highlighted when the two characters get excited about a high-profile fellow student – Stella Rebecca, who models during summer breaks – possibly joining their fight club. When informed of this, both PJ and Josie exclaim, in unison using the exact same words, a rundown of what makes Stella Rebecca such a coveted recruit.

Sennott is the current reigning queen of acerbic, snide comedic delivery, as seen in her hilarious turn in 2022’s Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. I desperately need to catch up with her and Seligman’s first collaboration together, the 2020 sleeper hit Shiva Baby. Ayo Edebiri has hit me, and the rest of the world, like a freight train in the last few years with appearances in projects like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, as aspiring journalist April O’Neil in the recently released Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, and, of course, in a star turn as Sydney Adamu in the emotionally intense Hulu series The Bear. (I’m a little late to the party on The Bear, having only finished the first season, which premiered in 2022, last week. It was a rewarding experience.)

Seligman, Sennott, and Edebiri all met while students at NYU. You can see the yearslong camaraderie on screen between Sennott and Edebiri in Bottoms; it’s a fictional friendship informed by a real-life bond. The two women collaborated on a limited, three-episode series for Comedy Central in 2020 called Ayo and Rachel Are Single.

The supporting cast of Bottoms are also in sync with the zaniness that Seligman infused into her film. British actor Nicholas Galitzine – with a convincing American accent – is air-headed perfection as quarterback Jeff. You might recognize Galitzine’s name from my review a few weeks ago for the Amazon Prime romcom . Jeff’s best moments come with his excited exclamations of his own name, “JEFF!”, and his confident announcement, “I’m so strong!”, when he lifts Isabel into his arms.

Miles Fowler is lowkey hilarious as Jeff’s nefarious teammate Tim. His ridiculous fast-walk any time danger presents itself and his over-the-top facial expressions fit right in with the ethos of the movie. At one point, Seligman has Tim using an antiquated yellow pages phone book as he’s checking on PJ and Josie’s story of their time in juvie. Another weird, WTF anachronism comes when we see Jeff rocking out to Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart – one of the movie’s many inspired needle drops – with a discman portable CD player. That sequence ends with the fight club exacting revenge on the jock when they TP his house and, as PJ puts it, “do terrorism” when one of the club members puts a bomb under Jeff’s car.

The violence in Bottoms is as outrageous as its comedy, the former frequently informing the latter. The punches and stunt work in the movie might not always be the most convincingly staged, but they never fail to elicit a guffaw. The final climactic fight scene, after Josie realizes with shocked horror what Huntington’s violent plans are for Jeff – mild spoiler, it involves pineapple juice – is an orgy of violence that would be more at home in a war movie than a teen sex comedy. Somehow, though, thanks to the off-kilter talent of everyone involved, it all hangs together.

One working title for Bottoms was reportedly Gay High School Fight Club. Seligman put that exact scenario on the screen, to hilarious and completely irreverent effect.

Why it got 4 stars:
- Bottoms is, quite simply, a goddamn good time. It’s hilarious, irreverent, and subversive as hell.

Things I forgot to mention in my review, because, well, I'm the Forgetful Film Critic:
- Thanks to this movie, I have discovered a nostalgic love of the Orion Pictures logo. Once considered one of Hollywood’s “largest mini-major studios,” the company was purchased in 1997 by MGM following financial turmoil at Orion. The brand lay dormant until 2013, when MGM revived it. Bottoms was the first time in decades I remember seeing the Orion logo on a new release. It holds a special place in my heart due to it appearing before some of my beloved favorites from the 1980s and ‘90s.
- A few choice, hilarious throwaway lines from the movie: “Did you period yourself?” and, cuttingly, “My vagin* belongs to the government.”
- Avril Lavigne’s Complicated is used to great effect in sending up the conventions of the kind of movies that Seligman & Co. are lovingly targeting here.
- It might be an easy way to get laughs, but I always love bloopers and outtakes during the credits of a comedy that is firing on all cylinders.

Close encounters with people in movie theaters:
- I first saw Bottoms at SXSW 2023 back in March and mentioned my adventure getting into the screening here. I came home very excited to tell Rae how awesome it was. To my dismay, not so much as a trailer was available to show her until a month or so ago. I think she was starting to doubt it was actually real. We saw it again with a few friends at Alamo Cedars, then Rae saw it again only a few days later. She loved it that much!

Bottoms Movie Review — . (2024)


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