It’s not every day that a movie like Bottoms makes its way to theaters. Bottoms is raunchy, silly, bloody, and, most importantly, queer as hell. But putting aside its obvious queerness and campy storytelling, Bottoms is also a good high school comedy reminiscent of its 1990s and early 2000s predecessors.
Director: Emma Seligman
Release Date: September 1, 2023
Let me be honest for a moment: I was a loser in high school. Sure, I had friends and did well in class, but I also did technical theater and spent a lot of lunches in the library. I had friends, but not a fun, tight group so often portrayed in high school media. Truthfully, I spent a lot of high school desperately wanting to make sense of myself and my sexuality, although I ended up ignoring my obvious lesbianism until college. Now I’m 23 years old and I still wonder what high school would have been like if I figured myself out a little sooner. Spoiler: I still would have been a dorky loser!
Loser lesbianism aside, Bottoms is a dream film made by and for queer girls everywhere. It builds off of lesbian cult classics like But I’m a Cheerleader in its campy aesthetic and reminisces its comedic sensibilities from films like Superbad. But Bottoms is so, so much more than just revamped teen flicks from past decades.
Bottoms, Emma Seligman’s second feature, stars hit comedy duo Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri as PJ and Josie, respectively. Both actors have made waves the past year for their work on projects like Bodies Bodies Bodies and The Bear, but this is their first collaboration (and Sennott’s second with Seligman – the first being Shiva Baby). Hopefully, it’s not the last time we see these two grace the screen together. Although the supporting cast pulls their weight and then some, Sennott and Edebiri absolutely shine in Bottoms’ quick 92-minute runtime.
The pair play best friends/lesbian losers PJ and Josie, who make it their mission to hook up with hot girls from their high school and to transcend their loser status. Right from the beginning, it’s obvious that their scheming is hare-brained and ridiculous, albeit hilarious for us viewers. They lie to their peers and teachers about going to juvie over the summer, making them seem much tougher than they actually are. The plot thickens as the two finally get closer to their hot cheerleader crushes: it-girl Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and her straight best friend Brittany (Kaia Gerber).
While their fight club starts as a sneaky way for PJ and Josie to get over their proclaimed “loser” status, the members of the club see it as a way to promote solidarity and empower women. Learning self-defense and having each other’s back is a necessity for teenage girls in a patriarchal society, especially in Bottoms‘s fictional town where violence is quite apparent (and also very campy).
PJ and Josie are no longer just the untalented, loser gays of their school. Now they have a whole cohort of different girls that look up to them! It’s truly the dream of any high school lesbian. But when Isabel dumps her football star boyfriend, Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine), things go from great to abysmal for our two protagonists. Their secret (a juvie-free summer) and ulterior motives are revealed to the entire school, their crushes and new friends are mad at them, and PJ and Josie get into a major fight.
Josie, in an attempt to make amends with PJ and her almost-girlfriend Isabel, uncovers a ridiculous plot by their rival high school football team to murder their star player: Jeff. The fight club bands together and brutally stops this from happening. It’s badass and utterly absurd, ending with blood-covered teens and the main duo finally getting the girls. Spoiler alert! Josie and Isabel make up and kiss in the ultimate queer power move: standing over dead jocks to a Charli XCX song.
Although the premise of Bottoms as a raunchy high school sex comedy isn’t new, its execution and comedic flair remold the genre to reflect the nuances of the queer girl experience. Teen films like Superbad, Easy A, and even newer films like Love, Simon rarely pin down how it feels to be a lesbian in those formative years. High school comedies often ignore or reduce female sexuality to categories of slut versus virgin, shying away from the awkward hormonal desires that most teenage girls actually face. Throw queerness into the mix and the pool of films that young lesbians like me can actually see ourselves in drops dramatically. Bottoms fills that gap quite effortlessly.
Another thing that Bottoms does so well is perform as a satire of teen comedies. Unlike some recent queer high school films, Bottoms doesn’t portray feminism or queerness in a sanitized manner. Main characters PJ and Josie are often bad people, lying and using violence to get what they want. Regardless of their incel behavior (which the film has marketed itself with, though maybe femcel would be more accurate), PJ and Josie’s queerness is never itself the issue. Rather, their “untalented” and “loser” selves create the problems that propel the story. The graffiti on their lockers goes from “faggot #1/#2” to “horny freak” and they are constantly referred to as losers, even by the other gay people at their school. There’s no real gay-bashing or trauma in Bottoms, only outcast lesbians with their loser problems and a scheme to hook up with hot girls.
If you enjoyed Barbie (and maybe wished it was gayer…), or you like well-written women in comedies, Bottoms is the film for you. With rabid reviews on platforms like Twitter, Tiktok, and Letterboxd, Bottoms is likely to open nationally to a very good box office. So don’t miss out on what might be the funniest (and queerest) film of the year!