The low-brow comedy Bottoms comes out on top.
PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edibiri) are besties. They’re also gay. Neither is popular at school. Still, PJ is ready to go with the flow, but Josie is not, convinced she will never get laid. Josie has her eyes on cheerleader Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), who is dating the school’s arrogant, womanising jock Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine). Meanwhile, PJ is taken by Isabel’s statuesque and beautiful friend Brittany (Kaia Gerber). As events transpire, Josie hobbles Jeff, who is chasing Isabel ahead of an annual grudge football match against the school’s fierce rivals.
In defending herself in front of the school’s principal (Wayne Pere), Josie – with PJ’s backing – concocts a plan to start a girls’ self-defence class. They also don’t deny a suggestion that they spent the summer in juvenile detention. They win the support of classmate Hazel Callahan (Ruby Cruz) and, later, teacher Mr G (Marshawn Lynch), who is going through a divorce. Fight club moves into full swing, leaving more than a few bruises.
Salty language is par for the course in this outrageous offering, which sits comfortably alongside the likes of Booksmart (2019) and Polite Society (2023). It is the work of Emma Seligman, who made such a splash with Shiva Baby (2020). She wrote Bottoms with Rachel Sennott (who starred in Shiva Baby) and directed the film. All about sex and fitting in, it’s edgy and coarse and will delight a younger demographic.
Seligman and Sennott – both in their late 20s – have tapped into the wants of teens. The plotting is hardly sophisticated, but then it’s never pitched as anything else. The characters are what make the narrative sing. They stumble, fumble and bumble their way through adolescence.
Sennott and Edibiri are the unifying forces. Sennott – as PJ – is the more polarising and pushier, while Edibiri – as Josie – is more respectful and conservative. Havana Rose Liu plays Isabel as a girl looking for meaningful connection in all the wrong places, while Kaia Gerber is a pretty adornment as Brittany. Arguably the most interesting character is Rachel Callahan. Ruby Cruz injects an air of mystery into her realisation. Nicholas Galtizene channels the classic meathead in Jeff. Wayne Pere clearly believes “nothing exceeds like excess” in breathing life into Principal Meyers. I warmed to the torn figure of Marshawn Lynch as a teacher and wouldn’t have minded seeing more of him.
Bottoms also benefits from a happening soundtrack that creates the right vibe.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.