Bottoms (Rated R)
By: Adam Freed
A lot has changed since John Hughes became the Pied Piper of Gen X teen entertainment. There was a time when providing teens with a realistic depiction and voice was enough to draw the admiration of young audiences. In the decades since, teen films, like all Hollywood genres, have experienced box office highs and a few embarrassingly low moments. The growing pains of these genre based experiences have resulted in a brand of teen films that are far more specific and inclusive than the stories of generations past. The latest example of this advanced evolution comes from director Emma Seligman (Shiva Baby) in the form of Bottoms, a coming of age story about two queer high school aged best friends willing to go to ridiculous lengths in order to gain their first sexual experiences with the perceived loves of their respective lives. What buoys Bottoms above other recent teen fare is how committed the story and its actors are to the absolute absurdity of the film, which goes to great lengths very early to permit audiences to detach themselves from any form of realism portrayed in other films set in high schools.
Whether the casting of emerging stars Rachel Sennott (Bodies Bodies Bodies, Shiva Baby) and Ayo Edebiri (The Bear, TMNT Mutant Mayhem) is brilliant scouting or brilliant luck, it matters not. The young actors absolutely glow as best friends PJ and Josie, marking the most memorable teen alliance since Booksmart (2019). At the root of their friendship is a mutual desire for sexual conquest, certainly not a new concept within the genre, but never has a plan to obtain carnal knowledge involved the establishment of a David Fincher style fight club to lure desirable potential mates. Adding to the admittedly absurdist story is the performance of former NFL star turned actor Marshawn Lynch. Lynch’s Mr. G, an irresponsible and loosely qualified educator, is the perfect candidate to sponsor PJ and Josie’s ill fated pugilistic program. Mr. G. also serves as the face of the negligently limited adult influence on the fictional Rockbridge Falls High School, a school in which the coachless football team is never seen out of pads or uniform and take campiness to oxygen free levels.
Whether or not audiences are going to respond to Bottoms is going to depend on the collective ability to disconnect from the expected realities of teen life and allow for absurdity to take hold. Below the surface of the satisfyingly strange teen romp is a feminist tale of friendship and belonging in a no longer predictable high school world. On the back of Sennott’s stardom and Edebiri’s brilliance in the FX series The Bear, Bottoms should be a film that passes nicely on a strong word of mouth in addition to a positive run on streaming services. While this film doesn’t reach the predictable comforts of 80’s John Hughes teen stalwarts, it certainly is an indication that Gen Z not only has an awful lot to say, but has found a few new ways to tell the stories of the students that Hughes’ films may not have been permitted to represent.
Target Score: 7/10 Bottoms is a daring, funny and unapologetic success because it doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is, which is one of the most absurd and entertaining Gen Z teen comedies yet produced.