By: Emilio Gutierrez, SFU Student
When I first read the synopsis of Emma Seligman’s Bottoms — two girls start a fight club at their high school to meet girls and lose their virginity — I thought I knew what I was in for. I expected a queer take on the edgy high school comedy formula, and some of the magic found in Seligman and Rachel Sennott’s (Bottoms’ co-writer and lead) previous collaboration, Shiva Baby.
I walked out of the theatre pleasantly surprised.
At a quick glance, Bottoms would seem like it fits under the high school comedy genre label. And, technically, it does; it’s a comedy set in a high school. However, stamping that label on it brings to mind movies like Mean Girls, Superbad, or, more recently, Booksmart, which aren’t really the same type of movie as Bottoms. Those movies seem to hold on to a degree of realism when depicting high school, which Bottoms doesn’t really bother with maintaining.
Seligman and Sennott are not afraid of being completely nonsensical and unrealistic, showing football players acting like bemused cheerleaders or school mascots walking around with huge, flopping . . . you know . . . phalluses. The writers have a lot of fun playing around with their action-packed, over-the-top version of high school, which, at its strongest, provides the script and actors with great opportunities to be outlandishly hilarious.
The highlight, however, is without a doubt the film’s cast. Sennott and Ayo Edeberi do a solid job at translating the desperate awkwardness of the two main characters, PJ and Josie, into two consistently likable and hilarious performances.
But they’re certainly not the only performances that stand out. Two of my own personal highlights were Nicholas Galitzine as Jeff, the fruity star quarterback, and Miles Fowlers as Tim, Jeff’s scheming, fiercely loyal right-hand man. They both knock it out of the park portraying their respective ridiculous personas, seamlessly injecting them with so much detail and character. Marshawn Lynch as Mr. G and Summer Joy Campbell as Sylvie also deserve honourable mentions, as they were both consistently funny.
The cast also demonstrates a good amount of flexibility by, surprisingly, providing the film with some genuinely well-delivered emotional notes, in spite of the characters’ seemingly unhinged amorality throughout a lot of the film.
Seligman and Maria Rusche (director of photography) also succeed at employing a fair share of fun, creatively-shot sequences, making the movie that much more engaging to watch. But perhaps one of the most striking technical aspects of the film is Leo Birenberg and Charli XCX’s soundtrack. The duo provide the movie with a beautifully textured mix of synth and guitar instrumentation that’s simultaneously lush and electrifying. Although its use in the film feels a bit limited at times, overall, it gives Bottoms a ton of memorable flair and character.
In the end, I do feel that Bottoms’ lack of focus and occasionally spotty humour keep it from being a definite favourite for me. In spite of that, I still find it to be a comedic, well-made movie that stands out as a unique take on the high school comedy formula. If Bottoms sounds like something you might like, I definitely recommend giving it a shot. Bottoms is currently only being shown in select cinemas, so if you are unable to find a screening near you, you’ll have to wait for the film to release digitally.