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‘Bottoms’ an offbeat indie comedy worth watching


Rising star Rachel Sennott reunites with “Shiva Baby” writer-director Emma Seligman to bring us the often raucous, high school-set comedy “Bottoms.” An attempt to create an “Animal House” for a new generation, “Bottoms” succeeds in addressing what it might be like to be a (slightly too old) gay teen (Sennott and Boston-born co-star Ayo Edebiri are both 27), or in this case two gay teens, as senior-year students in a modern-day high school where the entire population was raised watching “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” PJ (Sennott, “Bodies Bodies Bodies”) and Josie (Edebiri, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem”) are tightly-knit gay best friends and outsiders at their upper-middle-class high school, where they are friendly with such fellow outsiders such as crazy Hazel (Ruby Cruz) and “huffer” Sylvia (Summer Joy Campbell).

Welcome to Rockbridge Falls High School, where the cheerleaders, led by Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber, the model daughter of Cindy Crawford), are seemingly brainless cliches dating football players on the school’s worshiped team the Vikings, starring quarterback Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine of “Cinderella,” “Purple Hearts” and “Red, White & Royal Blue”). PJ and Josie have sworn that one day (or night) they will fulfill their dream and, respectively, kiss Isabel (Josie) and Brittany (PJ).

When PJ and Josie get in trouble at the school, a voice on the school’s PA system demands that “the two, ugly, untalented gays” go the the principal’s office, Brittany points out that they probably mean PJ and Josie. The principal (Wayne Pear) is a totally demented Vikings fan with examples of the taxidermist’s art on his walls. PJ and Josie put together a defense, claiming they are trying to form a woman’s self-defense club. The principal, a “Fight Club” fan, buys it, and PJ and Josie are given the chance to go ahead. PJ and Josie pretend that they know how to teach fighting. The young women claim falsely that they have been in “juvie,” where they learned how to fight and that they killed fellow prisoners in prison death matches.

Jeff, who wears his football uniform in class, is a complete moron, who expects Isabel to do whatever he tells her. Many of the issues raised in “Bottoms” are similar to those raised in Greta Gerwig’s smash hit “Barbie.” Josie and PJ are oppressed by a patriarchal majority, not to mention a football team, that is given its power by patriarchal tradition. Quarterbacks are gods. Gay, female seniors are a joke at best. Much of the humor in the film is derived from the manner in which PJ and Josie deliver their slang and pop culture-bedecked lines. Sennott, a producer, co-wrote the script with Seligman.

As a schoolteacher and club adviser, Marshawn Lynch, the NFL star making his screen debut, may be the film’s funniest performer and scene interceptor, I mean, stealer. It’s clear that Sennott and Edebiri, who attended NYU together, are enormously talented. The soundtrack features Bonnie Tyler (“Total Eclipse of the Heart”) and Avril Lavigne (“Complicated”). “Bottoms” is not this generation’s “Animal House.” But it’s an entertaining, offbeat, female-fronted, indie comedy worth checking out.

(“Bottoms” contains crude, sexual material, profanity and violence)

“Bottoms”

Rated R. At the AMC Boston Common, AMC South Bay, Coolidge Corner and suburban theaters. Grade: B

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