"Bottoms" Source: Orion Pictures

Review: 'Bottoms' is Decidedly Unique, Cozily Familiar, and Unrelentingly Funny

Derek Deskins READ TIME: 3 MIN.

There are going to be plenty that settle in for "Shiva Baby" writer-director Emma Seligman's sophomore feature, "Bottoms," who find themselves doomed to a land of confusion. "Bottoms" has been marketed as a teen sex comedy in which two unpopular queer high school girls (Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri) start a fight club in hopes of getting laid prior to graduation – but the film is decidedly more complicated than that. This is a movie that recognizes that the high school of cinema is a facade, so why not use that as a comedic advantage?

For those yearning for a point of comparison upon which they can pin "Bottoms," it is far more "Heathers" than "American Pie." It is not a film that strives for authenticity to a lived experience, but is more interested in the memory of high school and how the generalization and specifics can intermingle. Under Selgiman's direction, it feels familiar in the same way that the cafeteria and halls of "Mean Girls'' inspired complicated recollections. That familiarity gives "Bottoms" roots upon which its branches can reach for the absurd, telling a story that is far more interesting and funny than just another movie about the popular kids versus the weirdos.

Ultimately, it's the absurdities that makes "Bottoms" great. This is a flick where one of the film's villains is an idiotic high school quarterback known simply as Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine, also currently starring in "Red, White & Royal Blue"). He's like Madonna, but overflowing with unearned self confidence sitting on a pile of toxic masculinity. He only ever wears his jersey, because football is his identity, and emblazoned on his back is his moniker: Jeff. It's a simple joke, but one that Seligman milks every laugh from.

Adding to those absurdities is the inspired casting of Marshawn Lynch as the eventual faculty sponsor of the girls' fight club. Lynch is less an actor than a paragon of charisma that has found a way to weaponize his affability. While the script, by Seligman and star Rachel Sennott, is certainly well crafted, I don't know that they can take much credit for what Lynch says throughout the film. He has moved on from his football career to take on the many side quests that life can offer him, and it's often unclear as to whether Lynch is even aware that he is in a movie – that's how genuine he comes across. His reactions and penchant to go with the flow regardless of the experience is a large part of the hilarity he inspires.

The rest of the cast is fantastic, anchored by Rachel Sennott and the seemingly ubiquitous Ayo Edebiri. The two actors were once roommates at NYU, and they have a rapport that feels, and is, lived in. Their friendship is as much supportive as it is occasionally destructive. The complication is baked in and it feels authentic. Sennott gets the best jokes, but Edebiri is the heart. It's a balance that works wonderfully, and keeps the audience engaged regardless of the satirical turns the film takes.

"Bottoms" is a movie educated by the teen sex comedies that have come before it, and the film finds space to both mock and celebrate its predecessors. It's a movie for the outcasts to both wallow in their outcast-itude and figure out how to use it as an advantage. Emma Seligman has delivered a movie that stretches its own genre and tells a story that is decidedly unique, while also feeling cozily familiar. "Bottoms" is smart, different, and, through it all, unrelentingly funny.

Watch the (NSFW) red band trailer below.

"Bottoms" premieres in theaters Aug. 25.

by Derek Deskins

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