LOS ANGELES, August 21 (UPI) — The landscape of female-centric raunchy teen comedies, exemplified by films like Booksmart and Joy Ride, has been growing more prevalent. As a result, Bottoms, hitting theaters this Friday, is faced with the challenge of pushing the boundaries of shock value even further. The film rises to the occasion admirably.
PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Adebiri) find themselves on the fringes of high school popularity. After an altercation with football jock Jeff (Nicholas Galitizne), rumors swiftly circulate, painting them as tough girls who honed their fighting skills in juvenile hall.
To avert expulsion for their schoolyard brawl, the girls propose a self-defense club to their principal (Wayne Pére). The club soon takes on the moniker of their fight club, but in its evolution, it manages to foster camaraderie among the school’s female students while also achieving some positive outcomes.
Director Emma Seligman, who collaborated on the screenplay with Sennott, employs a satirical tone that becomes apparent from the film’s opening scenes. Social nuances are exaggerated to the point of absurdity, blending seamlessly with the comedic narrative.
While rumors have always been a part of high school life, the way they are amplified to an extreme within minutes is undeniably amusing. The film portrays everyone’s struggle with judgments based on appearances and the confinement of cliques, treating these experiences with an air of officialdom.
The genuine depiction of Josie and PJ as gay teenagers adds a layer of authenticity to the story. Their affectionate pining for the popular cheerleaders they have crushes on resonates with a universal sentiment.
The sensation of being on the outskirts of high school popularity isn’t confined to boys or heterosexual women. This sense of being an outsider is something that all high school students experience. Those who were popular might not necessarily gravitate towards high school comedies, or they don’t mind playing the antagonist in films that cater to the underdogs.
The concept of a high school fight club is notably audacious, and Seligman establishes this premise swiftly and efficiently, allowing Bottoms to delve into its comedic elements. Visualize Fight Club transposed to a high school gymnasium, and half the comedic work is done.
Physical combat serves as effective comedy, with just enough exaggerated bloodiness to be funny rather than unsettling. As the narrative unfolds, the girls find themselves in genuine battles, and these scenes are captivating, boasting well-crafted choreography.
Accompanying the physicality, Bottoms is replete with R-rated language, but it’s wielded in a childish manner that is more whimsical than provocative. The girls employ profanity to appear more mature, inadvertently revealing their immaturity.
Each girl enters the self-defense club with distinct motives. PJ is hoping for romantic connections with fellow club members, while Josie genuinely believes in empowerment. Hazel (Ruby Cruz) is primarily driven by the desire to defeat a rival school.
Cheerleaders Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber) grow tired of being perceived as mere adornments for jocks. They aspire to forge their unique identity.
Dark themes, such as suicide, stalking, and abusive step-parents, are addressed by many of the characters. Seligman manages the tone with finesse, allowing Bottoms to address these issues without mockery while still infusing youthful conversations with traumatic subjects with a sense of humor.
Bottoms illustrates that comedy can coexist with acknowledging real-world violence, and it gleefully navigates concepts of feminism and empowerment.
Romantic connections also blossom among the characters, adding a sincere layer to the narrative. Some classmates explore their crushes further, while others continue to identify as heterosexual. Bottoms illustrates that both paths are perfectly valid.
Bottoms is a delightful back-to-school comedy. With its distinctive take on high school experiences, it possesses the potential to become a cultural touchstone, much like Breakfast Club, Clueless, or Superbad.