SXSW: Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott are back with an indescribably funny, horny and weird new charmer.

The easiest way to describe Emma Seligmanthe second feature of “, “Down”? It is awfully weird. Director Seligman and star Rachel Sennott reunite in their follow-up to “Shiva Baby”, taking such a hard pivot from their 2020 breakout (and a script they co-wrote) as we go.

This is a queer teen sex comedy that wears its influences on its sleeve, but is still unlike any other film. It cements Seligman and Sennott as two of the most exciting young voices in cinema today, delivering a hit in the making with a tone that brings films like “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Not Another Teen Movie” to a whole new generation. .

Before the movie premiere at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, the public was invited to prepare for an experience impossible to describe. That’s pretty much what they got. This is a film set in a strange, parallel world with almost cartoonish logic, a world heightened to serious parody, where the tallest jock-himbo in high school has his face plastered on every surface of school and there is a giant mural of himself as Adam in ‘The Creation of Adam’ adorning the cafeteria, a world where the feminism teacher openly reads a nude magazine titled ‘Divorced and Happy’ during class – he is played by Marshawn Lynch, a highlight of the film.

It’s a tone that could easily have gone wrong, and that’s only the case because Seligman and Sennott pack the script with so many jokes that you don’t have time to really wonder if a joke landed. for you before being touched by another that makes you shake and cackle. It helps that Seligman fully adopts an absurd tone and wraps the film with visual gags to sell the idea – like the aforementioned mural. It’s no different than how “Wet Hot American Summer” used its ridiculous cast to immerse you in its wacky world before introducing its doomsday subplot.

Here wild students are locked in cages, murder is just a common thing that happens and everything is ignored as usual. Granted, the film’s humor is often uncomfortable and “problematic,” especially by the time you get to the third joke about a school bombing, but it’s the tone that sells the less savory parts of the script.

It’s in this absurd world that we meet PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri), two best friends who are at the bottom of the high school social ladder — they’re losers and they’re gay, a bad combination in a school which, once again, literally worships its straightest male. After an incident in which the two confront the chief jock-himbo after he tries to hit on his girlfriend, popular cheerleader Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), PJ and Josie are accused of ‘assaulting’ the star soccer player. and threatened with deportation.

Thanks to easily spread rumors about Josie’s time in prison, the two manage to spin their assault charges by taking advantage of the (literal) blood feud between their school and their football rival to create an official fight club. sanctioned by the school. Sure, their excuse is that they teach girls self-defense and also build girl-to-girl solidarity, but the truth is that it’s literally just a fight club – and they’ve only created to try and hook up with cheerleaders.

Unlike “Shiva Baby”, which used tight shots and quick edits to build tension, Seligman extracts every ounce of goofy humor from the characters in “Bottoms” by letting the camera linger in sequence until you’re on point. to start gritting their teeth. Still, what’s most impressive are Seligman’s skills in building and executing action scenes. It’s a fight club movie, after all, so fists are raised a lot. There’s one particularly bloody, large-scale fight that has clearer and more complex choreography than most of the action scenes in last year’s big blockbuster movies.

Beneath the film’s knotted plot and raunchy jokes, however, lies a rather poignant story about friendship and female empowerment. Although it starts with a genuine desire to protect themselves from a rival school that literally kidnaps and beats up students (without consequence, one might add), the girls get more from the club than good fighting skills.

While the focus is still on PJ and Josie – Sennott and Edebiri are phenomenal, the film serving as the reunion “Ayo and Rachel are single” – supporting cast really makes the movie shine. From the rest of the fight club members, each with their own unique personality who manage to become more than archetypes even when they don’t get much screen time, to the bewildered and enraged football players of the fight club. girls diverting attention from their games, “Bottoms” has a terrific ensemble.

“Bottoms” is an ambitious second feature from a director just getting started who can create both a hilarious and surreal teen sex comedy. And pair it with a hell of an eye for action sequences. Josie and PJ may be at the bottom of the food chain, but Sennott and Seligman are anything but.

Rating: A

“Bottoms” premiered in 2023 SXSW Film festival. MGM and Orion Pictures will release it later.

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