Monday November 13, 2023
Movie Review: Bottoms (2023)
That was fun. A little quirky, a little uneven maybe. Much of it feels improvised so the tone keeps fluctuating. What starts out true-to-life gets over-the-top quickly. There were times, watching, when I felt a little like Graham Chapman’s military officer in the “Monty Python” sketch: “Too silly, too silly, indeed. Get on with it now. … Get on with it.”
Like him, I assume I’m in the minority.
“Bottoms” is a high school comedy about two nerds who concoct schemes to get the pretty girls they’ve always dreamed about. But the two nerds are girls. That’s the selling point. It’s why something that’s basically a genre film feels new. Or newish.
PJ and Josie (Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri) are best friends who like different, hot, popular girls. For Josie it’s Isabel (Havana Rose Liu—now that’s a name for the 21st century!), the cheerleader-girlfriend of high school QB and BMOC Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine). For PJ, it’s Isabel’s best friend, Brittany (Kaia Gerber, Cindy Crawford’s daughter/clone, who looks way too hot to exist in the real world), who is also a cheerleader, but mostly hangs and looks disdainful.
At the start of senior year, their friend Hazel (Ruby Cruz) talks up the rumor that PJ and Josie spent the summer in juvie, and the girls, particularly PJ, lean into it—more so when she realizes the hot girls think it’s cool. Through a series of oddities, this leads them to starting a girls-only “Fight Club” on campus. Basically our girls fake it until they make it. To show how tough she is, for example, Josie talks up how she almost killed a girl in juvie with her punch—and everyone believes it. Then to gain sympathy, she lays out the day-to-day horrors of juvie, and everyone believes that, too. (Admittedly, that one is more believable.)
And it works! Isabel breaks up with Jeff because he’s banging Hazel’s hot mom, Mrs. Calahan (Dagmare Dominczyk of “Succession”), causing Isabel to run into the arms (and bed) of Josie. PJ tries it with Brittany, but she’s straight, damnit.
Meanwhile, things get crazier and crazier. We go from Josie’s lie about nearly killing a girl to the rumor/reality that the rival high school, Huntington, actually kills locals during the big game. WTF? Some of the over-the-top is simply satiric: The football players wearing their unis—with shoulder pads and cleats—in class, for example. Meanwhile, Jeff’s toady, Tim (Miles Fowler), plots to end the fight club by: 1) having Hazel lose a match with the biggest football player to show how little they'd learned; and 2) spilling the beans that our girls were never in juvie and only started fight club to fuck hot girls. Yes, he really only needed the second one, particularly since Hazel holds her own.
But that’s our second-act downturn (the ostracism) before our third-act redemption: During the big game, the girls fight the Huntington team to the death (yes, to the death) while uncovering the Huntington scheme to kill Jeff via grapefruit juice. The good guys win. Josie gets the girl.
One of us, one of us
Are there too many characters in this thing? I never really got the point of Stella-Rebecca (Virginia Tucker), a high school model. Sylvie (Summer Joy Campbell) is teeny but gungho, while Hazel keeps blowing up shit. There’s also Annie (Zamani Wilder), a nonentity until the big game, when Josie calls her “the smartest one” and “a black Republican.” Maybe such 11th hour exposition is the joke, but to me it just feels like 11th hour exposition.
And what era are we supposed to be in? It felt pre-#MeToo—the shit men say and get away with. Plus no smart phones. More and more movies do this to me. OK, when are we now?
The important thing is I laughed. I thought Sennott (co-writer, with director Emma Seligman) particularly funny. Plus it’s an important, widening perspective to have. It’s good to know that around women, lesbians are just as stupid as men.