The easiest way to describe Emma Seligman’s sophomore film, “Bottoms”? This is ridiculously weird. Director Seligman and star Rachel Sennott reunite for the Shiva Baby sequel as their 2020 breakout (and co-written script) takes a turn as hard as they come.
It’s a quirky teen sex-comedy that wears its influences on its clothes, yet it’s unlike any other movie. It unites Seligman and Sennott as two of the most exciting young voices in cinema today, delivering a tonal hit that brings films like “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Not Another Teen Movie” to a whole new generation.
Ahead of the film’s premiere at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, audiences were asked to prepare for an indescribable experience. That’s about all they got. This is a strange film set in a parallel world, with an almost cartoon-like logic, in a world heightened to the point of self-serious parody, where the face of the high school’s biggest soliloquist is plastered on every surface of the school, and there is a giant wall painting, in which Adam plays the role of “The Creation of Adam”. in the movie, she decorates the cafeteria, in a world where the feminism teacher openly reads a nude magazine called “Divorced and Happy” during class – played by Marshawn Lynch, the highlight of the movie. .
It’s a tone that could easily not have worked, and that’s only because Seligman and Sennott stuff the script with so many jokes that you don’t have time to think about whether you meant one joke before hitting another. you shake and giggle. It helps that Seligman fully embraces the absurdist tone, filling the film with visual gags to sell the idea — like the aforementioned mural. It’s not unlike the way “Wet Hot American Summer” used its ridiculous casting to lighten up the wacky world before introducing its doomsday story.
Here, the feral students are kept in cages, killing is just the usual thing that happens, and it’s all taken away in the usual way. Granted, the film’s humor is often uncomfortable and “problematic,” especially by the time we get to the third joke about blowing up the school, but that tone sells the script’s less palatable parts.
In this absurd world we meet PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri), two best friends who are at the bottom of the high school social ladder – losers and gays, the wrong pairing in a school. which again literally worships the straightest male. After an incident where the two confront the headstrong after trying to hit his girlfriend, popular cheerleader Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), PJ and Josie are accused of “assaulting” the star football player and threatened with expulsion.
Thanks to some easy-to-spread rumors about Josie’s time in juvie, the two manage to get the assault charged up, using the (literal) blood feud between their school and football rival to form an official, school-sanctioned fight club. Granted, their excuse is that they teach girls self-defense and promote solidarity among girls, but the truth is that it’s literally just a fight club—and a club created solely to try to hook up with cheerleaders. step.
Unlike “Shiva Baby,” which used tight shots and quick edits to build tension, Seligman wrings every ounce of awkward humor out of the characters in “Bottoms” by letting the camera linger until it starts twitching. Most impressive, however, are Seligman’s skills in building and executing the action scenes. After all, this movie is about a fight club, so they often come to blows. There’s a particularly gory, large-scale fight that’s more cleanly and intricately choreographed than most action scenes in blockbusters of the past year.
However, beneath the film’s knotty plot and slapstick jokes lies a rather poignant story of female friendship and empowerment. While this stems from a sincere desire to protect themselves from a rival school that literally kidnaps and beats students (without consequence, we might add), the girls gain more from the club than just good fighting skills.
While the focus is always on PJ and Josie—Sennott and Edebiri are phenomenal, serving as the film’s “singles Ayo and Rachel” reunion—it’s the supporting cast that really make the film shine. From the rest of the fight club members, they all have their own unique personalities that manage to become more than archetypes even if they don’t have that much screen time, to the soccer players who are confused and pissed off by her fight club who are distracting. their games ‘Bottoms’ have a fantastic ensemble.
“Bottoms” is an ambitious sophomore film from an up-and-coming director who manages to pull off a hilariously surreal teen sex comedy at the same time. and marry him with a hell of an eye for action sequences. Josie and PJ may be at the bottom of the food chain, but Sennott and Seligman are.
“Bottoms” premiered at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival. It will be released by MGM and Orion Pictures at a later date.
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