I wanted to watch this again as soon as the credits (which were intercut with bloopers, I might add) ended. For 92-minutes writer/director Emma Seligman's (Shiva Baby) sophomore effort maintains a level of energy and intensity that shouldn't be overlooked. It's easy for movies to come out of the gate strong, it's admittedly difficult for movies to stick the landing, but one of the most overlooked and undervalued skills in filmmaking as a beginning to end process is maintaining the tone and energy you come out of the gate with through to the end and Bottoms comes out of the gate strong. Fortunately, Seligman and star Rachel Sennott's screenplay seemingly accomplishes everything it sets out to do, but more importantly it excels in doing so. The way in which the dialogue feels so natural, the rate at which the jokes land, and the simple creativity involved in crafting and conveying this hyper-realized version of high school where no one is subtle about or offended by which clique they belong to or where they land in the pecking order is simultaneously so impressive and so wildly funny that those aforementioned 92-minutes feel like nothing, a tease, which means all you can and want to do when the film ends is to watch it again immediately. 

Bottoms is a film as easy to appreciate as it is to be entertained by. It's not hard to spot all the ways in which Seligman and Sennott wanted to put their own stamp on the genre. This is still very much a high school movie in the vein of two best friends trying to get laid their senior year before leaving for college, but with the gender swap bit being only the first layer in their scheme to recontextualize this quest we've witnessed so many times before. Sennott and breakout star Ayo Edebiri are best friends PJ and Josie who are also both lesbians but are not involved with one another romantically. Josie is crushing on head cheerleader Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) who is currently dating the alpha male of the school in Josh (Nicholas Galitzine) while PJ would love to hook up with Isabel's right hand gal Brittany (Kaia Gerber) because she may as well be Cindy Crawford ;). Sounds simple enough, right? It is. Don't fret. Thematically we're not going for much more than some simple, universal truths about how tough it can be in those coming-of-age years, but it is in the attitude and style of how it presents itself that Bottoms really stands on its own.

PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) play best friends and constant enemies in this inverse of the standard high school sex comedy.
Photo by Courtesy of ORION Pictures Inc. - © 2023 ORION RELEASING LLC. All Rights Reserved.

When talking of the heightened reality in which the film takes place it is an environment where there is no telegraphing of emotion or alternative motives, there are no unconscious messages to be conveyed. Instead, every single character may as well be one of those people who wear their opinions on their face no matter the circumstances. These kids say what's on their mind, they play into the roles fate has dealt them, and advertise wholly what's going on beneath the surface no matter the situation. When talking of the appreciation for the film and the thought and/or consideration Seligman and Sennott have included this means listening to the announcements going on in the background or noticing the mural in the cafeteria where the football team sits at a head table, dressed in full uniform every day, as if they're a wedding party or something. The seating arrangements and desk decorations in classrooms, not including any parents outside of the one crucial to the plot, and the straight-up ridiculousness of both the pep rally (the cheerleader performance bit is hysterical) and the final football game only heighten this reality further, but it also rounds out the expectations for the arcs of these self-admitted losers who otherwise might not have as exciting stories to tell. 

Key to the tone and understanding this world is the fact there is no real structure in place. Marshawn Lynch plays a teacher in the loosest definition of the word while the principal (Wayne Pére) is as transparent as the students - which is to say, he doesn't pull his punches. The lives of these kids are perfectly portrayed through the lens of that weird transitional time where you don't have to rely on your parents much anymore, but still don't have the crushing weight of adult responsibilities looming over your conscious and your schedule. As a result of both this lack of authority and the hyperrealism of the tone what we get is this rebellious and unruly spirit that pulses throughout the actions of PJ (an anarchist if ever there was one) and Josie (a rule follower who can't help but be tempted) as they put together their fight club and subsequently fight through their emotions, complicated feelings, and harsh truths as presented via humorous situations in a setting where it's easy to be liked if you're easy on the eyes but dismissed and overlooked if you don't wear flattering clothes or dare to challenge the status quo. 

Edebiri and Sennott are joined in the cast by Zamani Wilder, Summer Joy Campbell, Havana Rose Liu, and Kaia Gerber.
Photo by Courtesy of ORION Pictures Inc. - © 2023 ORION RELEASING LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The execution of these kind of high-minded takes on low brow comedy is what determines how successful things will be though, and it is the chemistry and camaraderie of Sennott and Edebiri that really sells the shit out of this kind of absurdist take on a standard premise. Edebiri's voice is both adorable and hilarious and the way in which she delivers her hesitant reactions against Sennott’s more direct missiles is so complimentary I couldn't get through her first little monologue about the twenty-year reunion without cackling. The ensemble doesn't hurt either as newcomer Havana Rose Liu is something of a revelation and Ruby Cruz, who I've not seen or heard of before either, really feels like she’s onto something big. Galitzine and Lynch are so zeroed in on how they fit into the puzzle one couldn't ask for more and while the finale begins to stretch thin the capabilities of the limited budget - both visually and conceptually - it needs to be acknowledged that spending some of that budget on licensing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and an all-timer of an Avril Lavigne needle drop was totally worth it. Needless to say, Bottoms is one of my favorite movies I've seen this year and a movie I hope is played on repeat at countless teen sleepovers for generations to come.

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