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‘Bottoms’ Review: Tim’s Actually More of a ‘Tops’ Guy

Posted by November 4th, 2023 No Comments »

Bottoms (2023)
Directed by Emma Seligman
Starring Rachel Sennott, Ado Edebiri, Ruby Cruz and Marshawn Lynch

Watching trailers for Bottoms all summer had me bubbling with excitement and anticipation. The film features two young actresses whose dry, disaffected humor perfectly aligns with my taste, and surprisingly, it also includes NFL star Marshawn Lynch in a character role. Here in Seattle, we hold a deep reverence for the former Seahawks running back; he didn’t just lead our team to their sole Super Bowl victory in 2014, he became a cultural phenomenon with his unique approach to fame and success. My admiration for Marshawn even inspired me to write a hip-hop parody love song. “I’m in Love with Beast Mode” has garnered 22,000 views on YouTube. It remains the peak of my musical endeavors’ reach toward virality. Despite its cheesiness and absurdity, it’s a milestone I proudly claim as both a musician and a sports enthusiast.

Unfortunately, my excitement Bottoms’ blend of film, fresh comedic talent, and one of my favorite sports personalities wasn’t met with the joy I had anticipated. In the opening scenes, as the “untalented and ugly gays” PJ and Josie were introduced, I felt a disconnect. Earlier in the year, the raunchy comedy No Hard Feelings had quickly endeared its characters to me despite its equally ludicrous premise. With Bottoms, I kept waiting to feel more connection to the lead characters.

“Y’all are paying me in Skittles, right?”

The film began as a typical teen comedy, laden with tropes, but as it veered into parody, it became increasingly unsubstantial. When it shifted into an absurdist film, any remaining charm evaporated. The violent scenes seemed jarringly out of place, seemingly constructed as a harsh critique of “film bro” culture while superficially championing female empowerment. The adult characters were reduced to stereotypes: the predatory cougar, the emotionally detached principal, and the so-called “ally,” Mr. G, who acts as a foil to our lead duo’s grand scheme. Lynch delivered some humorous lines as Mr. G, and the outtakes shown during the end credits suggest many were improvised, which made me happy. What didn’t make me happy is the fact that the film itself was an absolute slog to sit through. In contrast, No Hard Feelings breezed by in an hour and 43 minutes, while Bottoms, although ten minutes shorter, felt like it was double the length.

There were certainly amusing one-liners that elicited a chuckle. Ayo Edebiri’s portrayal of the eternally virginal Josie was awkwardly hilarious. As for the rest of cast’s performance, it seemed like they at least executed their lines as the writer and director envisioned—particularly considering Rachel Sennott, who plays PJ, also co-wrote the film. The script just wan’t that well written. Their characters’ motivations were apparent, though: they wanted their final year of high school to be memorable, and to them, that meant having sex. But it had to be with “hot girls,” because, in their view, an “ugo” wouldn’t settle for another “ugo,” right?

On the surface, my preference for No Hard Feelings over Bottoms seems clear. No Hard Feelings was written and directed by a cisgender Ukrainian man in his forties—much like myself—while Bottoms was penned and directed by a gay Jewish woman in her twenties, whom I don’t share common characteristics with. However, I’ve related to films by similar creators in the past.

So, what makes Bottoms different? I suspect it’s the generational aspect of comedy. For instance, the humor of Austin Powers was a hit with its contemporary audience of twenty-somethings, yet now it may not elicit the same reaction. Conversely, when Stanley Kubrick released Dr. Strangelove, there were likely those in their fifties who dismissed the comedy of this thirty-something director as inelegant parody teetering on absurdity.

Perhaps comedy is indeed generational. As an older man, maybe a sense of FOMO skewed my expectations, making it unlikely for any comedy written and directed by someone in their twenties to satisfy me. Bottoms might eventually be esteemed as a timeless classic, universally acclaimed like Dr. Strangelove. However, the old man in me suspects it will end up being nostalgically recalled in the same way as Austin Powers.

If Dr. Strangelove, one of the greatest comedies of all time, earns an A, and No Hard Feelings, a solid modern raunch-com, gets a B, with the now unwatchable Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery at an F, then Bottoms lands at a D.

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