Release Date: 08/25/23 [Cinemas]
"Two unpopular queer high school students start a fight club to have sex before graduation."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
What happens when a group of high school girls decide to start a Fight Club? Not only is it an insane idea, it’s the hilarious premise of Emma Seligman's bold sophomore feature, Bottoms.
The film begins with our two main characters, high school seniors PJ and Josie (played by Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri respectively) , as they ponder what their lives will become after graduation. Having had a mediocre high school experience thus far, they aspire to not only break out of their shells but to lose their virginities. The evening we met them, the girls attend a local fair where they catch one of the town’s hyper-masculine athletes, Jeff (played by Nicholas Galitzine), having an argument with his girlfriend, another one of their classmates named Isabel (played by Havana Rose Liu). Reluctant to intervene at first, they eventually do, but in the process they accidentally injure Jeff. That honest mistake changes the trajectory of their high school careers forever.
The next day, Jeff is seen sporting crutches. Rather than explain how he got the injury, he simply tells everyone at the school that PJ and Josie were responsible. As a result, the duo is lauded and rebranded as a pair of badasses. After being approached by many girls who admire their bravery, they concoct the idea to create a “Fight Club” - eventually rebranded to a self-defense club - as a means of meeting and hooking up with some of those same female classmates.
Director Emma Seligman is 2 for 2 with this film. Not only does it continue to establish her as an exciting young voice in cinema, it showcases her versatility. With her feature directorial debut, Shiva Baby, being a notably tense and dialogue-driven bottle episode, Bottoms is a loose coming-of-age comedy that relies on both scripted and improvised interactions with the characters. While not every single joke lands, as a whole the film never fails to entertain.
The film draws obvious influence from classic teen comedies such as American Pie, The Breakfast Club, and Superbad, but it’s also not so different from the film it owes its premise to either. Rather than tackle the main theme of emasculation from Fight Club, Bottoms brilliantly explores the problem with toxic masculinity and proves that it can breed toxic femininity too.
The immaculate chemistry between Sennott and Edebiri is pivotal to that proof. Although neither have any idea of what the club should be when it begins, as it grows the power it gives them physically and emotionally transforms them for the worst. In other words, they deliver a lot more than laughs here. Having worked on the short-lived Comedy Central sketch series Ayo and Rachel are Single before, you would think that the two have been working in tandem for years. While their names, or even the names of their characters aren’t plastered on the project (i.e Thelma and Louise or Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion), they are sure to become a female duo quoted and referenced for years to come.
Now, despite Sennott and Edebiri delivering quite a few laughs in the film, the supporting cast is also great. While the clique that PJ and Josie inadvertently form is full of rogue characters, the funniest character is actually played by former NFL player Marshawn Lynch. He plays the club’s moderator Mr. G. While he is very clearly chosen by the girls because of his laid-back demeanor, it’s his newfound support and appreciation for feminism after joining the club that provides some of the film’s biggest laughs.
As funny as the film is, it’s not without its flaws. In fact, one of its biggest issues is that there are times where actors try too hard to be funny. Galitzine’s character is the perfect example. Although his character is one of the film’s primary antagonists, his performance is so over-the-top that he becomes annoying to watch. Additionally, the third act goes so far off the rails that the film starts to feel more like a parody of teen movies than its own original story. While the version of high school Seligman establishes is admittedly very dramatized, it ultimately becomes unclear what the resolution is or if anything we’ve watched is real.
Perhaps that is just another way Seligman is paying homage to Fight Club. Perhaps, like the cult film, only time will tell. Nevertheless, there’s no underscoring just how well Seligman captures what it feels like to be a young woman in today’s world, and why violence is sometimes a necessary means to escape rock bottom.