Bloody Good – Film Review: Bottoms ★★★★

For me, anything remotely socially redeeming has always felt like the death knell for comedies. Whenever Hollywood has a lesson to teach me, I would prefer to skip school, thank you very much. I like my teenage movie heroes dazed, confused, and taking days off if they want to make me laugh. Well, thank goodness Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott got the memo, because their new film, Bottoms, aims gorgeously, deliriously, perfectly low and hits a bullseye. Think Porky’s meets Fight Club only with horny lesbians lusting through those shower peepholes and kicking serious ass. Oh, and did I mention, it’s hilarious?

Ayod Edebiri, Rachel Sennott, Zamani Wilder, Summer Joy Cambell, Havana Rose Liu, and Kaia Gerber in Bottoms. Courtesy of MGM.

Seligman’s feature debut, Shiva Baby, which starred Sennott, skillfully showcased their abilities to sustain a claustrophobic, nervous energy over its 77 minute runtime. Working together again, this time co-writing the screenplay, they’ve tackled a completely different tone, opting for an over-the-top sensibility yet with two very grounded characters at the center of it all. PJ (Sennott) and Josie (The Bear standout Ayo Edebiri) play two outcast high school seniors who start an all-female fight club as a front for losing their virginity to a pair of hot cheerleaders. They also want to improve their station at school. Improving things with violence! What could go wrong?!

PJ’s messy, a bit of a braggart, overly confident, and let’s face it, kind of an asshole, while Josie stays crushingly in a low self-esteem deadpan space. Sennott and Edebiri, who in real life, along with Seligman, met in college, have such a vivid chemistry, they make this outrageous premise feel strangely purposeful and with real emotional stakes. That’s no easy feat when the film is so completely bonkers.

Rachel Sennott, Havana Rose Liu, and Ayo Edebiri in Bottoms. Courtesy of MGM.

Imagine a high school in which the football players wear their uniforms to class, or that has a P.A. system blaring humiliations no Board Of Education would ever allow. Into this fray we have our heroines who concoct a fake murderous backstory. They claim they did time in juvenile hall in order to lead their self-defense workshops and enlist a teacher, Mr G. (the scene-stealing Marshawn Lynch) to barely serve as an adult supervisor. Next they invite as many girls as they can for some truly bloody hand-to-hand combat, roping in their true targets, Brittany (Kaia Gerber) for PJ and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) for Josie. The latter has an on again/off again relationship with the horribly douchey quarterback Jeff (Red, White & Royal Blue breakout star Nicholas Galitzine), but it’s not a stretch to see that Josie’s the better choice. Galitzine is a comic wonder in the role, leaping off the screen, using his elastic facial expression and loose body language to create a sensational villain. This actor has quite a range. Same goes for Miles Fowler as his overly protective BFF Tim. They’re two of the gayest straight characters I’ve seen onscreen in a long time, perhaps a nod to the gay football players from Heathers. Out SNL regular Punkie Johnson also contributes a funny scene about the insane lore of the rival football team. Ruby Cruz and Summer Joy Campbell also shine as standout members of the fight club with emotions dangerously close to the surface.

Nicholas Galitzine in Bottoms. Courtesy of MGM.

Seligman and Sennott pile on so many details about past traumas, who’s lusting after who, player allergies, and opposing team threats that it’s easy to dismiss the film as sheer nonsense. To that I say, it proudly wears that on its blood-soaked sleeves. This remains especially true during the insane third act when the filmmakers go for broke and attempt South Park levels of violence and conflict. Our main characters learn absolutely nothing, or at least kick that can down the road for another day. Their reaction to all that has come before, in fact, that usual moment in most films where someone learns a valuable lesson, earned the biggest spit-take laugh from me. Seligman has outdone herself for her sophomore effort going from twitchy indie to a comedy I’ll be watching over and over again for years to come. Likewise, Sennott and Edebiri make for a powerhouse comedy team because you want to lean in and eavesdrop while simultaneously shielding your eyes from their oh-so-wrongdoings. Give these bottoms all the power.

By Glenn Gaylord, Senior Film Critic

Bottoms opens wide in theaters September 1st, 2023.

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