Bottoms – A Rauncy, Coming-of-Age Comedy

I feel like little surprises me these days, but Bottoms, a high school coming-of-age film with a twist, did. Bottoms, directed by Emma Seligman, opened at SXSW this year and nationwide this week, making many teen angst movies seem pale regarding vulgarity and brutality. Produced by Elizabeth Banks, Bottoms’ takes girl empowerment to an entirely new, hysterical, and strangely violent level.

Two childhood friends and outcasts, PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) vow to bed the cheerleaders they’ve crushed on for years. The entire football team of their Louisiana high school stands in the way of the girls losing their virginity. Determined to score with their girls, PJ and Josie let a rumor (about juvie and murder) get them deeply embroiled in a girls’ “fight club” they create in a self-defense ruse. Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber) – the objects of PJ and Josie’s desires – and several misfit classmates join the club. With their teacher, Mr. G (Marshawn Lynch), watching on, the girls essentially start beating the snot out of each other. The best friend’s story unravels as the club grows, the girls find their strength, and Josie and PJ try desperately to recover.

From the onset, it’s apparent that filmmakers want viewers to ignore propriety and, more importantly, commonsense wholly. Once I gave into the sheer asininity of the premise and the characters in the tale, I looked on with shock, awe, and amusement.  Very few adults (notably teachers and staff) appear in Bottoms until the bloody and vicious end, and then they are only fans at the football game. Mr. G and the school principal ignore the insanity. The few parents that appear in the film ignore the bruises and blood; most obviously, a fight club member named Hazel who gets her butt beat by a boy during a pep rally.

At its core, Bottoms is like every other high school teen movie – with the same themes and similar characters, but with some exciting and wild differences. The girls’ fight club takes the light away from the wildly arrogant football captain, Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine), and all hell breaks loose. Betrayal and beatings become the focal points as the story climaxes, and the ending is shockingly violent and bloody. Still, Seligman’s film entertains unabashedly and unapologetically. I wanted to hate the film for all the same reasons I loved it.  I am placing 4 stars up top for the off-the-wall, balls-to-the-wall, comedy drama.

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