Movie Review: Bottoms
By Kevin Hoskinson
One thing that has fascinated me over the years is watching the evolution of high school comedies. Every generation gets their time to shine in the genre, and they seem to elevate to the next level every time. Being born in the 80s, we got our turn to shine when movies like Can’t Hardly Wait and American Pie hit the big screen. I remember watching American Pie with my dad (I know, great family movie!), and he was laughing as hard as I was. It seemed strange then, but I realized that he went through all of these things, too, and no matter what, he would remember them for the rest of his life. The thing about these films is that they are universal; nearly everybody who went through the experience can relate to it on one level or another, even years after that time has passed.
Recently, I had another experience like the one I had at American Pie, but the roles were reversed. My son (who is 16) and I planned to watch Gran Turismo when we could. It was a Saturday, and we were figuring out what time to watch it, and then I decided to show him the trailer for the new film Bottoms. While watching it, he started laughing so hard, and I knew we might be watching that film instead. After the trailer was over, he looked at me and said that Gran Turismo could wait and that he wanted to watch Bottoms. So that is what we did, and neither of us regretted our decision one bit after the film ended.
Directed by Emma Seligman (Shiva Baby), Bottoms isn’t your typical high school comedy. The movie centers around Josie and PJ, lifelong friends who are the unpopular kids at their school. After an incident one night with the star quarterback of the football team, they start a “self-defense” club at their school. They tell everybody that it’s to empower women at the school from being bullied, but they have ulterior motives. They are both gay and are in love with other girls at the school. They form this club to get up close and personal with the “hot girls” at the school in hopes of getting with them before they graduate. Along the way, things get very weird, and they soon realize that they might have messed up big time.
Bottoms is an absurdist comedy combining Superbad, Book Smart, and Fight Club elements to create something wholly unique and original. It feels like the kind of comedy you have already seen over and over throughout the years, but I can promise you that it’s anything but. The humor comes from the world and situations rather than one-liners and zingers. There is a running gag about PJ and Josie spending their summer in juvie that never gets old, and the jocks are a constant source of laughter. The story and its climax aren’t particularly grounded in a reality that we know, but the journey is full of characters and emotions that we are more than familiar with. Imagine watching a hilarious teenage comedy, but by the end, everybody is covered in bruises and blood, and you might get an idea of how strange this story can get.
The cast is one of the clear standouts in the film. Ayo Edebiri continues her stellar year of wonderful performances, including Syndey from The Bear and April O’Neil from TMNT: Mutant Mayhem. She gives Josie a real weight and a dry sense of humor that helps her mesh with PJ, portrayed perfectly by Rachel Sennott. Coming into the movie, we feel like the two have been friends forever, and the chemistry between the performers helps sell it. Two of my favorite characters were Hazel and Mr. G, played by Ruby Cruz and Marshawn Lynch, respectively. Hazel is this wide-eyed student who wants to do what’s right and loves to blow stuff up, and Mr. G is the teacher who is there for a paycheck. Lynch surprised me the most, showing that he has real comedic chops and plays off the girls perfectly. While they are my favorite things about the movie, everybody is incredible and understands the assignment.
While the movie isn’t family friendly (it is rated R), it’s a movie that you and the teenagers in your life will enjoy. After the movie was over, we talked about things going on in his school, and he was more open to talking about it with me. I’m happy we got to experience it together, and we both got to laugh together. These movies stand the test of time, and generations down the road tend to discover them. I have no doubt that Bottoms will be enjoyed for years to come. Don’t let this one slide under your radar.