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  • Writer's pictureBen Pivoz

Bottoms


PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) start a fight club in Bottoms (Distributed by United Artists Releasing)

Bottoms is a crazy, over-the-top, raunchy comedy about a couple of high school students looking to hook up with their dream girls before the end of senior year. In this case, the students are women (the majority of the important characters are female) and their plan is ridiculous, even for this genre. It is hard to explain exactly why Bottoms is so weirdly hilarious, which is likely why the trailer fell so flat for me. How do you convey this absurd “we know this is insane, but we don’t care” tone in a two-minute trailer?


Part of why it is so funny is certainly due to the screenplay’s commitment to its satirical parallel universe setting, where the football players wear their pads/jerseys all the time and the students swear and fight constantly without consequence. Another part is how successfully it establishes rules for this world. It is outrageous, yet consistent. The last reason is the cast, who just go for it in every scene. The social commentary can occasionally be a little too much and the sentiment is somewhat unconvincing thanks to the chaos surrounding it. Still, this is a very funny movie. It feels like the filmmakers were given some money and told to do whatever they want. The result is highly entertaining.


PJ and Josie are extraordinarily unpopular, not because they are gay, but because, according to their peers, they are “ugly and untalented.” PJ is focused on doing what it takes to give the two of them a shot with their cheerleader crushes. One thing leads to another and they decide to start a fight club/self-defense class in the name of female empowerment. Things only get wilder from there.


In this school, the football players are Gods. They can get away with literally anything, especially the obnoxious, deluded, arrogant, oblivious superstar. The women only seem to matter if they are dating a player, are a cheerleader or, ideally, both. The idea for the fight club comes about because the team is soon to play a hated rival, and the feud is so intense that the female students fear for their safety. PJ and Josie don’t just make the people who join their club feel tough, they (inadvertently) give them a community to belong to where they can feel valued and appreciated by girls they never would have connected with otherwise. There actually is touching female friendship in this story, side-by-side with the brutal comic violence and rampant sex jokes.

Mr. G (Marshawn Lynch) helps the girls out

The cast is fearless in the face of ludicrousness. Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri are PJ and Josie. PJ is the driving force of the pair, almost daring the world to hate her as she does whatever she has to do to achieve her goal. Josie is content to let high school pass her by, though she gets sucked into PJ’s plotting pretty easily. Both Sennott and Edebiri are very funny, anchoring this with their sweet friendship.


Ruby Cruz is Hazel, who ends up being their partner in the club. She has a few hilarious moments, yet she actually has a legitimate story arc. There is a real person here (albeit heavily exaggerated), which definitely helps with the last act sentiment. The big surprise here is retired football player Marshawn Lynch as Mr. G, the teacher the girls trick into sponsoring the club. Most athletes tend to play themselves in movies. However, Lynch is playing a character here: a man struggling through a divorce, who doesn’t have it in him to pay attention to his students. He is a regular highlight, fitting into the silliness perfectly with great comic timing.


The screenplay was written by director Emma Seligman and Sennott (who previously starred in Seligman’s Shiva Baby). There is a lot in here about gender roles, toxic masculinity and America’s obsession with athletic excellence above all else. This stuff doesn’t always land (I could have done without so many sexual assault gags), though enough of it hits the mark. Seligman and Sennott could have toned this down into a more conventional teen sex farce. They could have tried for something akin to the wonderful Booksmart. Instead, they try to balance raucous satire, heartfelt relationships and broad commentary.


Bottoms (84 minutes, plus some outtakes over the end credits) is one of those “if you don’t think that’s funny, wait a minute” type of movies. It is truly weird and is also funny more often than not. I came in skeptical and spent most of the next hour-and-a-half smiling.


3¾ out of 5


Cast:

Rachel Sennott as PJ

Ayo Edebiri as Josie

Ruby Cruz as Hazel

Havana Rose Liu as Isabel

Kaia Gerber as Brittany

Marshawn Lynch as Mr. G

Nicholas Galitzine as Jeff


Directed by Emma Seligman

Screenplay by Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott

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