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Pranks and punches fly in a weird “Fight Club”


The wide, bright, satirical world of director and co-writer Emma Seligman’s second feature film “Bottoms” expands and contracts according to needs. Wait a minute, this is a candid portrait of a youthful friendship between equally cold and marginalized PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Literary, Hulu’s “The Bear”). They’re weird, witty, and a little heartbreaking, not just because they call themselves “ugly” and “loser” when they’re clearly not.

Later, Seligman and co-screenwriter Sennott switch the key at a dime and start tossing big chunks of “Fight Club” and “Heathers” into a mini Ninja blender, along with the entirety of John Hughes’ straight-boys high school canon. school 80’s great.

The result – peppy, gory and fast – Seligman’s highly annoying debut in 2021 is very different from “Shiva Baby,” a masterful comedy about shaming lesbian Jews. This one tries more in every way and is largely successful. Arch? glib? Yes and yes. But I laughed out loud, especially the way returns in “Bottoms” are delivered in incognito mode like a running process server for Jason Sudeikis.

Here we are neighbors to the real world. PJ and Josie’s high school is literally run by the football team, the Vikings, and quarterback Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine, lately from “Red, White and Royal Blue”). He harasses, bullies and hangs around like a hormonally uncontrolled royal family. Unfortunately, Josie’s hottest love, cheerleader Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), is flirting with Jeff’s girlfriend. But for how long?

An unreliable yet exploitable rumor about PJ and Josie’s rough life in reformatory drives our heroes to their Big Idea: a win to start a women’s self-defense club, to prioritize noble intentions, yet get close to gorgeous, popular girls. Bonus. It works; The club becomes a riot of broken noses and bloody gums. Then they take it out. In the “bottoms” world, sexual assault jokes, angry patriarchy and Black Republicans who are not yet of voting age are equally fair game.

Some comedies, even erratic but rewarding ones like this one, will work with different casting decisions for the leads. “Subs,” I’m not sure. That’s another way of saying that Sennott and Literary work beautifully together and separately. The increased frenzy in the film’s final half-hour leading up to the championship game with the Vikings’ bloodthirsty rivals could use a little more craziness and a more brutal visual quality.

However, as Seligman told a festival audience last year, he set out to create “a crazy gay high school comedy in the style of ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ but geared more towards gay Z generation audiences.” Nothing is as it seems here, not even the time frame: The characters are based on generations of technology (a real phone book emerges), and, like “Peanuts,” the “Bottoms” universe lacks adults or trusted adult supervision. .

But PJ and Josie score points by queuing one of their trainers (Marshawn Lynch, hilarious) to “advice” to thirsty fight clubs. After all, all these young women want is a place to hang on, a little less humiliation, and a little physical intimacy. If that makes “Bottoms” sarcastic on the outside but traditionally friendly on the inside, that’s fine.

“Subs” — 3 stars (out of 4)

MPA rating: R (for vulgar sexual content, pervasive language, and some violence).

Running time: 1:32

How to watch: Premieres in theaters on August 24.

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.


excitement @phillipstribune


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