Kiwis can finally stream the craziest R-rated comedy of the year
Bottoms is available to stream on Prime Video.
(R16, 91 mins) Directed by Emma Seligman Reviewed by James Croot ****
Shiva Baby was one of the true comedic delights of the Covidravaged 2020 cinematic year. Emma Seligman’s debut feature (adapted and opened out from her 2018 short film of the same name) was a bittersweet, adult, pitch-black farce filled with laugh-out-loud moments. It also provided a terrific showcase for its 20-something star Rachel Sennott.
But if Shiva felt like a younger generation’s answer to Curb Your Enthusiasm or Clerks, then Seligman and Sennott’s follow-up appears very much inspired by 80s teen tales like Revenge of the Nerds, The Breakfast Club and Wet Hot American Summer.
Tired of being “hated” for being “gay, untalented and ugly”, Rockbridge Falls High School seniors PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Abbott Elementary and The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri) decide it’s time to change their social status.
However, with their respective cheerleader crushes Brittany (Kaia Gerber) and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) barely acknowledging their existence – and the rest of school obsessed with their football team’s rivalry with Huntington High’s Golden Ferrets – altering perceptions will not be easy.
Things go from bad to potentially catastrophic during the traditional opening event of the school year, when a chance to separate Isabel from her serial cheating boyfriend Jeff (The Changeover’s Nicholas Galitzine) goes pear-shaped.
Turns out grazing the knee of “the most good-looking, all-American, red-blooded muscular man this town has ever seen” (as Rockbridge Falls’ principal describes their star quarterback) with your car, while he’s harassing his girlfriend, can see you threatened with expulsion, especially when everyone thinks you actually got into a physical altercation with him.
In her desperation to save their chances of going to college, or preventing them from becoming complete campus pariahs, PJ claims the incident was actually practice for a “feminist self-defence club”.
This lie not only saves their asses, but when subsequent rumours abound of their hard-women status, it gives the pair the idea to start holding sessions for real, especially when Isabel and Brittany both suddenly show interest.
Legitimised thanks to persuading the distracted and in-the-middle-of-a-messydivorce history teacher Mr G. (Marshawn Lynch) to be the club’s “adviser”, they become a huge hit, creating a safe space for the school’s young women to be themselves – and smash the crap out of one another.
However, not everyone is happy with the attention being diverted away from the school’s traditional sporting “heroes”.
At once a modern-day homage to the traditionally male-oriented coming-ofage sex comedies of decades past – like Porky’s and American Pie – and a fabulously subversive mickey take of them, Bottoms is also the best tale of high school female friendship since the brilliant Booksmart (its smart, sassy observations and anarchic sensibilities also reminded me of the underrated, early 80s Sarah Jessica Parker-starring sitcom Square Pegs).
Yes, there’s a touch of the Beverly Hills 90210s about having Edebiri and Sennott play characters a decade younger than themselves, but that actually just adds to the retro feel of the premise (as does the prominent, pitch-perfect use of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart and Avril Lavigne’s Complicated in two key scenes).
Its provocative nature, colourful language and physicality won’t be for everyone, but for those game for a laugh and who can’t wait for – or stand – the imminent prospect of a musical version of Mean Girls, Bottoms is riotous fun.
Weekend | Entertainment