Bottoms (2023)

With nowhere to go and nothing to do during the height of the pandemic, the one solace people had was discovering new tv series and feature films that made their way directly to streaming services. One of those films was the debut hit Shiva Baby written and directed by Emma Seligman and starring newcomer Rachel Sennott. Seligman’s follow-up Bottoms reaffirmed the talent the writer-director possess in telling a story with characters that have relatable motivations within a tried and true subgenre. While at the same time modernizing the R-Rated teen comedy and satirizing it.

If Bottoms looks and feels familiar, it is. A Superbad for 2023 mixed with the Olivia Wilde Booksmart flair for the theatrics. And the premise of Bottoms toes the line that Superbad also leaned in toward. Following queer best friends PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) in presumably their senior year of high school, the two have never had sex and dream to hook up with Rockbridge Falls cheerleaders Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber) before going to college. PJ is the outgoing, talkative one and Josie would rather bury her head in the sand than start a conversation with Isabel.

After the carnival night that kicks the events into motion ends horribly for Isabel’s boyfriend and star football player Jeff (Nicolas Galitzine), both PJ and Josie to protect themselves start a self-defense club after school. Or at least, that was the front for their reasoning for starting the club. Quickly, the self-defense club turns into a fight club with a touch of project mayhem thrown into the mix. Tyler Durden himself would be proud of this chapter even without the rules of fight club set in place as a guideline. As the fight club grows, so does PJ and Josie’s popularity – especially from Isabel and Brittany.

But a fight cl—I mean a self-defense club cannot go unsupervised. PJ and Josie recruit one of their teachers Mr. G (Marshawn Lynch) to keep the club operating under the impression that he doesn’t even have to show up to a club session. But Mr. G’s hands off and questionable approach to teaching transfers over and PJ keeps a firm grasp on the reigns. All of this set up just to lose their virginities before college. And this is where the satire comes into full effect. After the big climactic fantastical action sequence finishes a character says, “you could have just talked to me”.

Co-written by Sennott and Seligman and directed by Seligman, Bottoms packs a strong right hook. In today’s world people will literally do whatever it takes and commit the grandest of gestures to get the attention of someone they like minus the simplicity of saying hi and starting a conversation. In a way we all feel like a blending of both PJ and Josie wanting to do something impressive and over-the-top but also not bringing so much attention to ourselves in the fear of being rejected. That sums up what the high school experience is for most – being a teenager is plain difficult.

Front and center are Rachell Sennott and Ayo Edebiri. Sennott reteaming with Seligman after her breakout performance in the anxiety inducing claustrophobic Shiva Baby gives the sense of being in a comfortable situation with her comedic timing being on point. Sennott has the talent to be a standout among the talented cast but its Ayo Edebiri (The Bear) who sits firmly in the driver seat with her performance – playing the insecure, charming and quietly confident role with subtle humor mixed in. The two together kick ass and take names as their popularity grows but like all coming of age comedies, being on top of the world doesn’t last forever.

Like all that have come before it in the genre, Bottoms features the same plot structure and predictability as the story moves forward. At 93 minutes, Seligman keeps the pace tightly wound and on track, rarely slowing down but taking the punches and quickly getting back into the fighting stance. You can easily see when the downfall will happen and the plan blowing up in their faces, but the journey provides one laugh after the other. But Bottoms isn’t just fists of fury and sex jokes – Sennott and Seligman add a commentary about feminism, inclusion, representation and gender role dynamics into the mix.

For the majority of the film, Seligman expertly balances the themes Bottoms conveys – all told through crude humor and sexual innuendo but it’s the heart that quickly takes over. On the satire aspect of it all, the football players are never without their uniforms, even during school and their first names appear on the back of their jerseys. Seligman makes a statement with her vision of jocks in teen comedies. The football team are treated like Greek gods – posters hang everywhere, famous paintings are parodied, they get away with everything, even faking a leg injury and acting abhorrently. Forget about serving something that a player is allergic to, all hell breaks loose, and the temper tantrum begins.

2023 has reinvigorated and reinvented the R-Rated comedy – Bottoms is but the latest to create non-stop laughable moments blended with an emotional center that speaks to society and changing times and will cause a black eye. But this is one fight club you can and should talk about. Packed with hardcore action, Bottoms will guarantee a sense of empowerment and confidence. Confidence to step out of your comfort zone and do something that terrifies you. Backed by a hilarious ensemble, Seligman proves herself once again as a writer-director with something to say, bringing a fresh take on generic and overdone tropes.  

Screenplay By: Rachel Sennott & Emma Seligman

Directed By: Emma Seligman

Music By: Charli XCX & Leo Birenberg

Cinematography: Maria Rusche

Starring: Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri, Ruby Cruz, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, Miles Fowler, Marshawn Lynch

Edited By: Hanna Park

Release Date: August 25, 2023

Running Time: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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