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BOTTOMS: COMEDY FROM A FRESH NEW VOICE

Writer-director Emma Seligman graduated from NYU just six years ago but she’s fast becoming a media darling. Two years ago her debut feature, Shiva Baby, earned her the John Cassavetes prize at the Film Independent Spirit Awards and made her a player on the New York indie scene. Her new film, Bottoms, is a campy, absurdist comedy about two gay high school friends (Rachel Sennott, star of Shiva Baby) and Ayo Edibiri (from television’s The Bear and Theater Camp) who are such social outcasts that they impulsively start a fight club, which leads to consequences they couldn’t anticipate.

Bottoms plays with the tropes of such films as But I’m a Cheerleader and Clueless, but they are filtered through a distinctly different lens. Seligman wrote the screenplay with Sennott; they have no problem being raunchy and ridiculous–even violent–while imbuing their characters with just enough grounding in reality that you find yourself caring about them. The tonal shifts all work remarkably well, as I can attest: I watched the film with my class of 20-somethings at USC.

Football star Marshawn Lynch is very funny as a teacher who agrees to be faculty advisor to the girls’ fight club until the going gets tough. The film is well-cast right down the line and filled with faces that will be familiar to its youthful demographic.

Shiva Baby was a bit claustrophobic but it heralded the arrival of a fresh new voice in screen comedy; Bottoms clinches the deal. I can’t wait to see what Seligman and Sennott cook up next.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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