Bold comedies aren’t really a thing anymore. Now, there’s a separate article that can be written about where all the big comedies have gone, but it’s an event when something actually does come out now. Ever since the success of the Judd Apatow stable of raunchy comedies, there hasn’t been much out there. This year had No Hard Feelings and Joy Ride, but they’re more the exception than the rule now. The big satire? Almost nonexistent. So, Bottoms is a bit of a unicorn. Luckily, it’s more than just unique. The film is also hilarious, smart, and with something actually meaningful to say.
Bottoms is not the standard issue raunchy comedy, or even the sort of comedic satire we see lately. About as far a cry from Shiva Baby but bearing the same sort of bold filmmaking, it’s exciting and unique work. While comparing anything to Mel Brooks isn’t fair, Bottoms is confident enough to have a Blazing Saddles reference (consider the name of the high school). It may not go down as a modern classic, but this movie is incredibly funny and impossible not to applaud.
PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) are unpopular high school girls who just want to get laid. Now, the friends see their counterparts, both queer and straight, having way more success than they are, so with graduation feeling like a ticking time bomb, drastic measures are needed. If they’re to lose their virginities to some cheerleaders, they’ll actually need to interact with them. Almost on a whim, and surrounded by the bizarre jocularities of the football team, it comes to them. They’ll start a fight club. Posited as a self defense kind of class, they cofound the club with Hazel (Ruby Cruz), have an oddball teacher (Marshawn Lynch) sign off on it as faculty advisor, and away they go. A few white lies and suddenly, girls are attending. What could go wrong?
Go figure, the fight club is a success. Not only is it becoming a safe space for a broad spectrum of students, but PJ and Josie may be making headways with their crushes, Brittany (Kaia Gerber) and Isabel (Havan Rose Liu). At the same time, the impending big football game against a rival school promises all sorts of violence against women, alongside the bad behavior of Isabel’s perpetually unfaithful jock boyfriend Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine). It all turns into some wild zaniness, though it does all come back to some serious points, separating it from a lot of other would be satirical comedies.
Led by Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri, the cast fully understands the assignment. Sennott blew me away in Shiva Baby, and while this is broader work, she’s no less impressive. Edebiri gets more of the emotional moments to play with, while still being very funny, and she aces both. The pair have some of the best friend chemistry of the year. Marshawn Lynch is a a surprise standout, as the longtime running back proves to be incredibly funny. They’re the highlights, though Nicholas Galitzine has some ridiculous moments of his own. Supporting players include Dagmara Dominczyk, Miles Fowler, Punkie Johnson, and more.
Director/co-writer Emma Seligman, working alongside Sennott again after Shiva Baby, has an incredibly effective pairing going on. Seligman and Sennott craft scripts that are as smart as they are funny, with Bottoms being no exception. Here, Seligman’s direction is bigger and brasher, including effects, some wild jokes, and a deeper message. You watch the tight film and almost wonder how she got away with it. The fact that she did, and that it’s as good as it is, continues to suggest that she has a hell of an exciting career ahead of her.
Bottoms is one of my favorite comedies of the year. The movie has some truly hilarious lines, as well as an overall zany sensibility, but it also includes a strong message. So, if this sounds like a gender swapped LGBTQ American Pie, it may have some of that going on, but it’s actually closer to a modern day Heathers. If that’s not high praise, I’m not sure what is? Don’t miss this flick!