Starring: Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri, Ruby Cruz, Havan Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, Miles Fowler
Director: Emma Seligman
In the sophomore feature from director Emma Seligman, she has teamed up again with her Shiva Baby lead Rachel Sennott, who has also co-wrote this dry but ridiculous teen comedy.
Set in a typical US high school, Sennott stars as PJ who, alongside best friend Josie (Edebiri – The Bear, Big Mouth), are derided as the outcast and uncool queer kids. As they identify, it’s not that they’re hated for being gay, just that they’re “gay and untalented”. In an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the cheerleaders that they want to sleep with, they set up a fight club to teach young women how to defend themselves. But they’re not expecting that their club will become an instant hit, or that their role as leaders will come under intense scrutiny too.
On paper, this looks like a standard – albeit very Queer – high school comedy. But that wouldn’t take into account its extremely dry and observational script that’s placed counterpoint to an absurdist plot and hugely overblown characters. And while its two leads are fully realised deeply flawed protagonists, its supporting cast are an assembly of self-aware stock roles who are thoroughly ripe to pluck its gags from. Nicholas Galitzine (Red White & Royal Blue, Cinderella) plays the quarterback jock as though he’s knee deep in a pantomime, while Kaia Gerber (American Horror Story and the daughter of Cindy Crawford) delivers the hot dumb-girl as a shrewdly intelligent wink to the camera.
Meanwhile, Sennott and Edebiri really are excellent as these quite unpleasant students with their hearts in completely the wrong place. With a golden script that’s saturated with improv, this is a truly collaborative comedy that has skimmed the cream from a group of extremely talented young people.
For sure this isn’t a classic comedy as its jokes are too risqué, foul-mouthed and cultural, but if its one-liners are lost on some, its farcical scenarios are absolutely not. Because with the establishment of a fake fight club, it is of course inevitable that they will eventually be in a situation where they have to fight. The inevitable fulfilment of this impending disaster takes up the entire final act, with climactic ultraviolence that would make Tarantino proud. And it’s here that you’ve got to really buy into its style. Yes, this looks and smells and feels like an American high school, but this is absurdism first and foremost.
Shiva Baby was also a comedy, but Bottoms couldn’t be more different in tone and execution. For a director cutting her teeth, this is an exciting contrast that has seriously delivered with two very strong independent comedies. I think we can safely say that both Seligman and Sennott firmly have our attention.
UK Release: Out now in cinemas, released by MGM