The high school comedy is in desperate need of a shakeup. Thankfully in the cinema world heroes often come right when you need them. This time around they come to us through the dynamic duo that is director Emma Seligman and her writing partner and breakout sensation Rachel Sennott. Sennott and Seligman have teamed up before giving us the wonderfully uncomfortable Shiva Baby, where Sennott played a college student who must attend a Shiva while also bumping into her married sugar daddy. These two woman made their unique voices heard so it was only a matter of time that their indie critically praised darling had others asking for more. BOTTOMS is not only one of the best high school comedies in years it is just one of the most fun times you will have with a movie overall. The film tore the roof off at the Paramount Theater in Austin where it held its worldwide premiere for the South by South West Film Festival and it only takes a mere few minutes to see why. Here is a film that is never afraid to be itself, detractors be damned. If you ever wanted to see what a live action Animaniacs episode may look like then here is your answer. Vibrant and constantly bouncing off the walls, BOTTOMS is not just a great film it is your new best friend.
P.J and Josie are horny. From the moment we meet these two highschoolers (played respectively by Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri, real life best friends) two things are clear; they want to make out with hot girls and they are losers. Josie remarks about how nobody wants to fuck her now, but she is playing the long game; never talk to her crush Isabelle (Havana Rose Liu) but score with her at the reunion when she’s washed out. P.J. has other ideas, in fact she is tired of waiting. “You can’t be the only virgin at Sarah Lawrence” she screams even though she herself has even less of a plan to win over her crush Brittany (Kai Gerber). The setup may be somewhat familiar but unlike other female led comedies Seligman and Sennott’s script doesn’t take any time for its audience to catch up. In fact its damn proud (as it should be) of its clear feminist dialogue that is both hysterical and affirmative. But if highschooler losers having crushes on popular kids seems too familiar then get ready because what’s to come is anything but usual.
BOTTOMS might as well be the new pop song of its generation. Seligman and her cinematographer Maria Rusche give the film a colorful feel that you can’t help but wonder what bubble gum comic strip this was adapted from. Even more so every character is gloriously scaled up to eleven. P.J. and Josie’s high school is every staple of high school to the highest degree. The football jocks (who never take off their uniforms) are not just seen as royalty the school is dedicated to their mere existence. The quarterback is Jesus Christ and the team are his disciples so much so that when they sit at lunch they practically reenact the last supper. Meanwhile “losers” are treated like peasants and even they go along with the hierarchy. So how do two outcasts overcome their wannabe male superiors and get their crushes. Well by starting a fight club so they can roll around on the floor with them of course! Pitched as a self-defense course, P.J., Josie and their friend Hazel (a killer Ruby Cruz) are hoping for the hottest girls to join but in P.J.’s eyes only get “sixes at best.” Sennott as P.J. continues an already amazing filmography that includes playing woman who believe to be allies to their fellow sisters but will also drop them in an instant for sex. Edebiri fresh off her Spirit Award for the FX breakout hit The Bear brings a more innocence to the duo but with the same awkwardness that causes her to continue a lie that the two of them were sent to juvey over the summer so they know how to fight. It isn’t long though until Isabelle and Brittany join the club and it becomes clear that every girl their needs this whether it be to fight off their stalker the police refuse to apprehend, or to fight back against an abusive step-father or just get by every day in a male dominated world. BOTTOMS knows its target audience but is an easy reach for anyone with the right understanding of this modern world.
Enough can’t be said about Seligman’s directing. It is also a great example of a director keeping their themes but displaying them in a totally different manner. If Shiva Baby is the lost college girl movie then BOTTOMS is the crazy adventure they tell at house parties. And what a crazy adventure it is. To say what transpires as BOTTOMS goes on would be cruel, (you won’t believe how many surprises are in store) but anyone who is a fan of pop music, bloodshed and getting justice on soon to be frat bros is in for a wild ride. BOTTOMS also succeeds in not just relying on its crazy antics but also a wonderful combination of actors that are willing to go exactly where they need to. Havana Rose Liu and Ruby Cruz are big scene stealers. Liu playing a character that is often seen as just the delicate cheerleader gets to rip off any preconceived notions for some truly epic takedowns, while Cruz as Hazel is the hidden heart of the film while also being its biggest wild card. Here is a film where audiences will easily find someone to connect to and feel seen throughout. For a genre that has often run away from inclusivity it is more than refreshing to see a film that actually feels like it knows the world it is creating. All the characters are fully fleshed but even more so they are girls you meet everyday but that many continue to ignore. It is a movie that will shake anyone who talks big but never acts. BOTTOMS raises the bar for any highs school comedy to follow. In fact we may be looking at the new blueprint. Seligman and Sennott not only give you the greatest senior year ever, but its proof that when the reunion comes around and everyone else is washed out this film will still be punching back hard and landing every shot.
BOTTOMS PREMIERED AT THE SOUTH BY SOUTH WEST FILM FESTIVAL. IT WILL BE RELEASED IN THEATERS LATER THIS YEAR