Best friends PJ (cowriter Rachel Sennot, “Shiva Baby”) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem") are the kind of high school losers who find their lockers defaced with ‘Faggot #1’ and ‘Faggot #2,’ so they are at a loss as to how to attract the objects of their desire Brittany (Kaia Gerber, “Babylon”) and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu, “No Exit”), the latter the cheerleading girlfriend of the school’s star quarterback. A PA announcement warning that a female student was attacked by a member of the rival football team gives them the crazy idea to round up women by forming a fight club in the name of feminist defense in “Bottoms.”
Laura's Review: B+
Cowriter/director Emma Seligman ("Shiva Baby") and her star have pulled influences from such genre touchstones as “American Pie,” the obvious David Fincher film and Sennot’s little seen “Tahara” for their own queer twist on the raunchy teen sex comedy and it’s an instant classic. Beginning with perfectly paired leads, Sennot rash and self-centered, Edebiri introspective and sincere, “Bottoms” features the snappy, double entendre dialogue of screwball comedies and a notable supporting cast making their own individual impressions.
After a frank talk about their sexual desires, PJ and Josie surprise their likewise-oriented buddy Hazel Callahan (Ruby Cruz, TV’s ‘Mare of Easttown’) by showing up at the school fair celebrating the Vikings. But when the duo spy Isabel and Brittany, they fumble, PJ sussing out Brittany with questions about hot dogs and buns (an update on “Spartacus’s” snails and oysters scene) while Josie totally melts down trying to compliment Isabel by stammering how skinny she is in various iterations. In the parking lot, when Isabel marches away from Viking QB Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine, Prime's 'Red, White & Royal Blue') after a fight, PJ pushes Josie to offer her a ride and Isabel promptly jumps in. Jeff threatens the vehicle, Josie stops short of hitting him at slow speed, and he melts down like a baby (he’ll show up at school on crutches, although he was untouched).
Then fight club is initiated, the girls asking teacher Mr. G (NFL's Marshawn Lynch, "80 for Brady") to be their club advisor for their ‘feminist group’ in hopes he’ll sign on and fail to show up. Their first meeting in the school gym draws an odd assembly, one member stating she wishes to kill her stepfather. Josie tries to get things rolling talking about mutual defense, but PJ takes over with a more aggressive stance, at least until Brittany and Isabel walk in.
Not only do the four letter words fly (including from Mr. G and Principal Meyers! (Wayne Pére, "Spider-Man: Homecoming")), but soon the fists are flying too, PJ’s idea of simply pitting two women against each other leaving her with black eyes and Mr. G, who does show up and, in a spirit of camaraderie, kvetches about his divorce, almost halting the proceedings. Josie makes inroads with Isabel by inviting her to study but is conflicted as to what to do with information that Jeff is getting it on with Mrs. Callahan (Dagmara Dominczyk, HBO's 'Succession'), ‘Stifler’s mom’ for a new generation. Meanwhile PJ’s attempt to kiss Brittany ends with Brittany seeming unperturbed but declaring herself straight. Nonetheless, even as Jeff and his sidekick Tim (Miles Fowler) unmask PJ and Josie’s motivation for starting their fight club, it proves a unifying movement that is thoroughly unleashed on the Viking’s football field, Brittany defending PJ with one mean right hook.
While “Bottoms’” protagonists don’t start off with good intentions, PJ learns a lesson (and earns the girlfriend who was there all along) while Josie tries and fails to rein her in. They’re a great pair of opposites and, combined with Seligman’s fleet-footed direction, propel the movie with a crazy, careening vigor. The supporting cast cannot be overlooked, former Seattle Seahawks running back Lynch an inspired casting choice, hilarious as the supposed typical male finding his inner feminine side. Galitzine takes his comedy over the top to just the right level. Havana Rose Liu and Kaia Gerber are no mere objects, the former lovely and thoughtful, the latter matter-of-fact and loyal. Summer Joy Campbell adds crazy tomboy as Sylvie, with Zamani Wilder the stabilizing Annie, Punkie Johnson as Rhodes and Virginia Tucker as fight club trophy car model Stella-Rebecca.
I don’t often chortle out loud watching movies, but “Bottoms” had me in stitches. It’s a different style of comedy than “Shiva Baby,” but clearly the Seligman and Sennot have the knack for what makes us laugh.
Robin's Review: B+
Two queer high school best friends, P.J. (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri), are not exactly popular. But, before graduation, they come up with a plan to score with hot cheerleaders by starting a “self defense club” for girls in “Bottoms.”
I remember, back in the 1970s and ‘80s, teen sex comedies, like “National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)” and “Porky’s (1981),” were aimed squarely at its male, tweenie, misogynous audience. Women/girls in those flicks were objects rather than subjects, relegated to skimpy, or no, clothes and seen through peepholes by horny guys.
Well, with “Bottoms,” sophomore feature helmer, Emma Seligman, with her co-writer and star Rachel Sennott, try to make lightning strike twice after their success with “Shiva Baby (2020).” The duo not only succeeds, they take a fresh turn on those teen sex comedies of decades ago.
P.J. and Josie are determined to get “laid” before the end of the school year. They come up with the idea of starting a femme fight club but they need a faculty member as their sponsor. Since a “fight club” would be a no-no, they present the idea to their gym teacher advisor, Mr. G (Marshawn Lynch), as self defense training. He goes along with the plan.
Their master plan, score with hot cheerleaders, is always there as part of the story. But it is secondary to the femme-empowerment that is at the crux of “Bottoms.” Of the dynamic, queer duo, P.J. is the radical one, always willing to push the envelope – and be willing to take the first punch. Josie, though, is their voice of reason, pointing out the pitfalls of the plan. That does not stop them from going through with said plan.
Emma Seligman, with her femme-based cast – the only male of consequence, besides Mr. G, is the BMOC captain of the football team, Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine). He is the opposite of the ladies here as the handsome, dumb-as-a-post jock who does not know when to keep it in his pants – to amusing consequence.
Even way back when, I found the raunchy teen comedies demeaning to women, for sure, but for guys too. With “Bottoms,” there is a fresh, innocence to the gay teen comedy where the sex is consensual and “no” means “no.”
I look forward to what Seligman and Sennott come up with next. They have a knack for collaboration and it shows, well, here.
MGM/UA's Orion Pictures releases "Bottoms" in select theaters on 8/25/23, opening wider on 9/1/23.