Bottoms Movie Review
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Let’s get that controversial name out of the way first. No, the new comedy Bottoms is not a gay X-rated film. The title here instead refers to a pair of teenagers at the bottom of the social totem pole seeking to climb to the top. And sure, it’s not necessarily a new concept, but its focus on a pair of queer girls seeking to break out of loserville combined with a helluva number of fun fights offers up a fresh approach. Fellow critic, Nate Adams, perhaps summed it up best when he described it as a cross between a personal favorite, Not Another Teen Movie and Fight Club.
Best friends and PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) are desperate to lose their virginity before graduating from Huntington High School, but being “gay, untalented, and ugly” as they’re often labeled hasn’t worked out well for them. Well that and the fact that neither can have a coherent conversation with their respective crushes – Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) for Josie and Brittany (Kaia Gerber) for PJ. Head cheerleader Isabel is of course dating the star quarterback Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine) and fellow cheerleader Brittany has “an identity attached to [Isabel] and goes wherever she goes.”
Huntington isn’t that unfamiliar from many schools where football rules all. Just a month away from their first game in 20 years against rival Rockridge Falls, it is all anyone can think or talk about. But after a fellow student is accosted by a Rockridge Falls student and subsequently a minor accident involving PJ and Josie that threatens Jeff’s participation in the game, the girls are called down to the principal’s office to face their punishment. Quick thinking by Josie provides a plausible defense – the girls were practicing for their self-defense club – and the girls get out of trouble. But with the idea now out in the ether, PJ sees it as an opportunity for each girl to get into the pants of their crushes. A rumor gone wild and dumb luck find Isabel and Brittany joining their fight club and, well, you can guess what happens from there.
Bottoms takes a page from the dominant summer flick Barbie, taking on the patriarchy. The principal mocks PJ and Josie, and girls in general, calling them vicitms and that girls are always right and sees Jeff as “the most good looking all-American red-blooded muscular man [Huntington] town has ever seen”. Jeff is unafraid to comment how strong he is and gleefully boasts how he does not talk to girls in overalls. And girls are presented with “you’re prettier when you smile” posters in school.
Like the parody Not Another Teen Movie, Bottoms never takes itself too seriously which is why you have students and elders cursing at one another as if they’re in the locker room, teachers read pornographic magazines during class, and even a nod to the classic American Pie. What differentiates Bottoms though is its desire to move beyond parody to re-spin an often used premise. Also separating it from other films is what you don’t see in the foreground nor hear from the core dialogue. Watch and listen carefully and the movie adds an extra layer to its humor whether it be comments made on the side, the taking down of a mascot, or even words written on a chalkboard.
Edebiri, a standout in FX’s hit series The Bear does much of the heavy lifting in the movie, but credit goes out to Marshawn Lynch for his co-starring role as Mr. G, PJ and Josie’s teacher who acts as the advisor for their defense club. Lynch is finding his lane with roles like this one and in playing himself in the funny, but uneven Murderville. Kaia Gerber, a near clone of her mother Cindy Crawford, continues to show that she can do more than just model.
Produced by the talented Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect and Cocaine Bear), the hilarious raunchfest ends a summer movie season that saw the return of risque comedies back to the big screen. While most failed to find a large audience, hopefully that reaction doesn’t mean the end of films like Bottoms and Joy Ride as they bring unique ideas to theaters that too often still rely upon superhero movies to draw a crowd.