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In a queer ‘Battle Membership’ with a facet of ‘Heathers,’ the jokes and punches fly – Orange County Register

Michael Phillips | Chicago Tribune (TNS)

The large, vivid, satiric world of “Bottoms,” director and co-writer Emma Seligman’s second characteristic, expands and contracts as wanted. One minute it’s a honest portrait of a teen friendship between the equally uncool and marginalized PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri, Hulu’s “The Bear”). They’re queer, witty and a little bit heartbreaking, and never solely as a result of they confer with themselves as “ugly” and “losers” once they’re plainly not.

Then, on a dime, Seligman and co-screenwriter Sennott change the important thing and begin tossing entire chunks of “Battle Membership” and “Heathers” right into a mini-Ninja blender, together with the whole lot of John Hughes’ canon of hetero-male highschool ‘80s cool.

The consequence — peppy, bloody and swift — could be very completely different from Seligman’s 2021 sublimely nerve-wracking debut movie, the deft comedy of lesbian Jewish mortification “Shiva Child.” This one tries extra, each which method and largely efficiently. Arch? Glib? Sure and sure. However I laughed lots, all of the extra so as a result of the payoffs in “Bottoms” have a method of delivering in stealth mode, like a course of server working for Jason Sudeikis.

We’re actual world-adjacent right here. PJ and Josie’s highschool is dominated, actually, by the soccer workforce, the Vikings, and quarterback Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine, recently of “Crimson, White & Royal Blue”). They harass, bully and float like hormonally unchecked royalty. Sadly for Josie, her most ardent crush, cheerleader Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), is philandering Jeff’s girlfriend. However for the way lengthy?

An unreliable however exploitable rumor about PJ and Josie’s hard-knock life in juvie leads our heroines to their Massive Thought: beginning a self-defense membership for females, with noble intentions up entrance however a yen to get near the beautiful, fashionable women as a bonus. It really works; the membership turns into a riot of damaged noses and bloody gums. After which they take it outdoors. Within the realm of “Bottoms,” jokes about sexual assault, the raging patriarchy and Black Republicans not but of voting age are equally truthful sport.

From left, Ayo Edebiri, Rachel Sennott, Zamani Wilder, Summer season Pleasure Campbell, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber and Virginia Tucker in “Bottoms.” (Orion Footage/TNS)

Some comedies, even erratic however rewarding ones like this one, would work with completely different casting choices made for the main roles. “Bottoms,” I’m unsure. That’s one other method of claiming Sennott and Edebiri work superbly collectively and individually. The escalating craziness of the movie’s remaining half-hour, resulting in the championship sport with the Vikings’ bloodthirsty rivals, may’ve used a little bit extra craziness, a wilder visible high quality.

That stated, Seligman got down to create a “campy queer highschool comedy within the vein of ‘Moist Scorching American Summer season’ however extra for a Gen-Z queer viewers,” as she advised a competition viewers final yr. Nothing’s fairly because it appears right here, even the time-frame: Characters depend on generations-old expertise (an precise cellphone guide makes an look) and, like “Peanuts,” the universe of “Bottoms” is basically bereft of adults or dependable grownup supervision.

PJ and Josie rating, nevertheless, in lining up certainly one of their instructors (Marshawn Lynch, very humorous) to “advise” their thirsty combat membership. Ultimately, all these younger ladies need is a foothold on life, rather less humiliation and a few bodily intimacy. If that makes “Bottoms” snarky on the skin however conventionally heartfelt on the within, properly, that’s high quality, truly.

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‘BOTTOMS’

3 stars (out of 4)

MPA score: R (for crude sexual content material, pervasive language and a few violence).

Operating time: 1:30

Easy methods to watch: In theaters Friday

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©2023 Chicago Tribune. Go to chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content material Company, LLC.

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