Flix at :48:Bottoms
After watching the summer releases of Asteroid City, Joy Ride, Barbie, and They Cloned Tyrone, this season has had fun memorable comedies for a diverse range of viewers. Then I saw another comedy that blows all the titles I previously mentioned out of the water along with my expectations. This comedy is called Bottoms and is a hilarious take on the queer, teenage, high school satire.
Director and writer Emma Seligman, and her friend actress Rachel Sennott, had moderate success with the 2020 coming-of-age Jewish comedy Shiva Baby. Now director Emma Seligman has co-written Bottoms with Rachel Sennott about two, frustrated, lesbian friends who form a female self-defense group in their high school to get out of trouble with their principal and to catch the attention of the two popular girls they're crushing on. This self-defense group quickly turns into a bloody fight club when the collective female rage drives the girls to destroy the misogynist football quarterback and achieve the sweet satisfaction of revenge.
I've heard some people compare Bottoms to the female-centered teen comedies Mean Girls (2004) or Easy A (2010), but Bottoms is far too dark and biting for such a comparison. I feel it's more like the 1988 film Heathers meets the mocking tasteless attitude of a John Waters film (like Female Trouble from 1974 or Cry -Baby from 1990). The stereotypes of high school characters are so magnified and so over-dramatized, this film is confidently unbound to reality and practical logistics the longer it runs.
But because of the impassioned performances from the two leading actresses; Rachel Sennott (Bodies Bodies Bodies, 2022) and Ayo Edebiri (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, 2023); Bottoms also has surprising moments of emotional groundedness. Thankfully, this film is not all about the entitled yearnings of two young women and the embarrassing situations they get into. It also has scenes that pull back from the exaggerated silliness showing arguments and rejections all too familiar to queer viewers.
But the main reason to see this film is the profanity-laden dialogue and raucous style of humor. The writing includes awkward jokes about sexual assault, suicide and eating disorders. The finale is a deadly, bone-crushing, impossible fight on a blood-splattered football field. One of the lines from this film is, "Annie, you may be a Black Republican, but you're the smartest out of all of us."
Near the beginning of the film, the principal speaks into the school intercom with the line, "Could the ugly, untalented gays please report to the principal's office?"
This nihilist bent on the teen comedy feels so fresh, so crazy, and so aggressively energetic, it will delight many comedy lovers (especially dark comedy lovers.) Bottoms is a cringey, unpredictable addition to the growing wave of mainstream queer cinema that began last summer with the films Fire Island and Bros. I'm hoping this wave keeps gaining height.