The Movie Waffler New to Prime Video - BOTTOMS | The Movie Waffler

New to Prime Video - BOTTOMS

New to Prime Video - BOTTOMS
Two lesbians form a fight club at their school in order to maul cheerleaders.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Emma Speligman

Starring: Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, Dagmara Dominczyk, Marshawn Lynch

Bottoms poster

When they came together in the 1970s, Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor proved a comic revelation that defied comedy tradition. Convention had stated that comic pairings should consist of a straight man and a clown. With Wilder and Pryor we now had two clowns. They didn't so much bounce off each other as bump into one another, but it worked. In writer/director Emma Seligman's Bottoms, the young duo of Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edibiri make a strong case for being Gen Z's Wilder and Pryor. Neither character could be considered a straight man, in any sense of the term, and while neither actress is actually Jewish, they both channel that distinctively Jewish neuroticism that has fuelled so many of the great American comedies (and which was on full display in Seligman's debut Shiva Baby).

Bottoms review

Sennott and Edibiri play PJ and Josie, a pair of lesbian friends who are outsiders in their high school. They seem to have gained this status not through being victims of homophobia (the film is set in a very accepting Gen Z milieu) but simply through their own neuroticism. Like the young male heroes of so many bawdy high school comedies of the past, PJ and Josie are desperate to get laid but have absolutely zero game. The fact that they've set their sights on Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber), who appear to be the living embodiment of the heterosexual cheerleader, doesn't help their cause. The protagonists of these films usually have some "plain" admirer whose obvious compatibility they overlook, and that's a trope leaned into here through the character of Hazel (Ruby Cruz), a lesbian who seems to have a crush on PJ, who ignores her existence as soon as the statuesque Cindy Crawford lookalike Brittany enters the room.

High school comedies have a long tradition of their male protagonists coming up with morally dubious ways of winning the hearts of the hot girls, and Bottoms is no different. When a female student is beaten by a football player form a rival school, PJ and Josie exploit their classmates' fears by establishing an after school programme that Josie describes as a self defence class but PJ pitches as a "fight club." Either way, it's simply an excuse for PJ and Josie to womanhandle some hot cheerleaders.

Bottoms review

Bottoms follows the basic formula of the high school comedy, with Josie actually managing to seduce the not so straight after all Isabel until her and PJ's true motivations are exposed. But Seligman, co-writing with Sennott, adds a heavy dose of absurdism. The fight club scenes are hilariously over the top, preparing us for a climactic football game that features swords being wielded and jocks literally murdered by the girls PJ and Josie have "trained." The classic scenes of high school life are dialled up to 11, with the football players permanently clad in their kits regardless of whether it's actually game day or not. The adults are a hyper parody of the usual assortment of disinterested teachers, frustrated principals and horny moms this sub-genre is known for. The ironic homoeroticism of American football proves ripe for jibes; not since the Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers has America's obsession with that sport been ribbed in such anarchic fashion.

In a reversal of the racial dynamic of Wilder and Pryor, it's Edebiri who takes the Wilder-esque role of the sensitive one who ultimately gets the girl, while Sennott is the foul-mouthed smartass. Closing credits bloopers reveal a high level of improvisation was employed but unlike Judd Apatow, Seligman never allows her performers to over indulge themselves in this regard. As funny as Sennott and Edibiri are here, the real comic revelation is former American football player Marshawn Lynch as a constantly stoned teacher PJ and Josie rope in to act as the adult supervisor of their fight club. Every line delivery provokes a chuckle, and his outtakes are the highlights of the closing blooper reel.

Bottoms review

Yet while Bottoms mocks and satirises the American high school comedy, it lacks the tight structure and focus of the best of those movies. Around the halfway mark it loses direction for a brief while, and the subplot of PJ and Hazel never feels satisfyingly developed. Seligman clearly knows what elements of teen comedies she wants to poke fun at, but at times she seems to miss the point that such films work because they embrace certain clichés. With a bit more thought Bottoms might have stood alongside the likes of Clueless and Mean Girls rather than simply satisfying itself with aiming digs at such movies.

Bottoms is on Prime Video UK/ROI now.

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