Emma Seligman impresses yet again with her sophomore feature, “Bottoms.” Written by herself and Rachel Sennot (who also stars in the film), the plot follows two gay high school losers, PJ (Rachel Sennot, “Bodies, Bodies, Bodies”) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri, “The Bear”), as they start a fight club in order to get intimate with two
specific cheerleaders: Isabel (Havana Rose Liu, “No Exit”) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber, “Babylon”).
The club initially gains traction because of a rumor spread by Hazel (Ruby Cruz, “Willow”) that the duo were in juvenile detention over the summer and had to fight to survive. Of course, chaos ensues. What started as a sexual ploy for PJ and Josie quickly becomes more than that, as the misfits of the fight club slowly but surely become friends over the course of the film. Isabel’s clueless quarterback boyfriend Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine, “Red, White & Royal Blue”) and his best friend Tim (Miles Fowler, “Women of the Movement”) serve as comic antagonists to the club’s hijinks, with their inefficiency almost as funny as the girls’ sexual frustration.
As the club becomes more intense, the pressure of keeping the lie that gave credence to the pair’s ability to run a fight club strains the relationship between them, as does their pursuit of their love interests.
The film features a stunning ensemble of characters, with a notably hilarious breakout performance from Marshawn Lynch (yes, the former running back for the Seattle Seahawks) as the staff supervisor of the fight club. There are explosions, a recreation of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” with Jeff’s head pasted onto both God and Adam in the cafeteria, a deadly pineapple allergy and palpable sexual tension. Perhaps one of the funniest aspects is the fact that the members of the fight club are always covered in cuts and bruises, but no one seems to notice or care — a humorous way to show how adolescent girls (and their problems) are often ignored by those around them.
Charli XCX stuns as the head of the film’s soundtrack, creating beautiful moments with her signature gliding synths and electronic swagger. The expert placement of the Avril Lavigne track, “Complicated,” and the inclusion of a fan-favorite from Charli XCX’s own discography during the denouement prove that she was the
pop star for the job.
Seligman delivers all of the raunch of an early 2000s comedy with the ironic meta-awareness of the
here-and-now, and the result is a relatable, cringey and heartfelt film about the struggles of relationships and identity for young queer people. The plot is predictable, but the characters are not; Seligman takes certain stereotypes and exaggerates them to the extreme, creating a familiar but ridiculous reality. “Bottoms” is a fun spin on a much-loved genre — and is as funny as it is original. The comedy is perfectly interwoven into the frustration and desperation of the two lead characters, and their relationship is the beating heart of the film. Seligman, Sennot and Edebiri are definitely a trio to watch.