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‘Bottoms’ makes its way to top of class

High school comedy finds success in absurdity, irreverence

<p>The film’s humor is edgy and provocative without being tasteless and derogatory.</p><p>Courtesy of MGM Studios</p>

The film’s humor is edgy and provocative without being tasteless and derogatory.

Courtesy of MGM Studios

As long as comedy exists, there will always be one perpetual setting: high school. With the perfect locale to tap into audiences’ collective highs and lows, traumas and embarrassments, the high school comedy will always have a place in people’s hearts. With her new film “Bottoms,” writer-director Emma Seligman has crafted a new addition to this time-honored canon of movies and makes it the best of its kind in recent years.

The high school setting of “Bottoms” is more akin to a feudal caste system than an actual institution of secondary education. The football team’s quarterback Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine) is the insecure, dimwitted but dashingly handsome king of the castle who has the whole school — teachers and all — heeding his every need. On the flip side are our lowly peasants, Josie (Ayo Edebiri) and PJ (Rachel Sennott), whose only recognition from the rest of the class is the homophobic slurs routinely painted on their lockers. To their dismay, they are both virgins, and they want nothing more than to change that. But they are both hyper-fixated on women well out of their reach. Josie likes Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), Jeff’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, and PJ likes Brittany (Kaia Gerber), Isabel’s best friend. Neither has any idea how they will woo their queens in the high towers of the keep.

The world of “Bottoms” is almost as if the school from “Euphoria” knew just how absurd it really was and chose to make fun of itself. The football players, no matter where they are, are never seen in anything other than their uniforms. History class, led by the seemingly apathetic teacher Mr. G (Marshawn Lynch), is a space for very little learning, a whole lot of pop culture-based humor and the fleshing out of the film’s heightened social dynamics. It’s an uncanny valley of a high school, and it’s in this so-close-yet-so-far from reality setting in which the film gets its humorously idiosyncratic tone.

This is most true when the crux of the whole narrative comes into play. In order to gain attention from their crushes, Josie and PJ get their billion-dollar idea — to start a fight club. The all-female club, supervised by Mr. G, begins to form something of a frequent member base, even becoming popular enough for Isabel and Brittany to join. Josie and PJ find themselves creeping up toward the top of the food chain, threatening to tear down the social order the football players strive to maintain. Jeff’s right-hand man Tim (Miles Fowler) begins snooping around, trying to find dirt to bring the club down. 

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This fun, silly narrative is backed up with irreverent humor that remains on point. With laughs stemming from off-handed comments about the works of bell hooks to a bloody massacre which — to hammer home the medieval metaphors — includes an actual broadsword, “Bottoms” finds its humor from wherever it can and somehow makes it all work. It’s edgy and provocative without being tasteless and derogatory.

“Bottoms” reaches an equilibrium in its presentation that is often unreached by other attempts at Gen-Z comedy. Its frequent absurdity is reigned in so that it does not detract from its narrative potential. The characters feel just real enough that they don’t become obnoxious caricatures of overused tropes. The humor is fresh and exciting while still feeling like a continuation of the great high school comedy tradition, with “Bottoms” holding its own against titans of the genre as “Clueless,” “Mean Girls,” “Superbad” and “21 Jump Street.” It marks that Edebiri and Sennott are comedic talents that are here to stay, and that Seligman is a creative force who will assuredly find new heights to reach.

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Finn Kirkpatrick

Finn Kirkpatrick is an arts & culture editor. He is a junior from Los Angeles, California studying Comparative Literature who likes to review movies and other things of that sort. 



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