Director: Emma Seligman
Screenwriters: Emma Seligman, Rachel Sennott
Starring: Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri, Ruby Cruz, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, Miles Fowler, Marshawn Lynch
If Not Another Teen Movie and Heathers had a baby, it would no doubt be Bottoms, the hilariously violent 2023 teen sex comedy from director Emma Seligman.
Starring Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott, the latter of whom co-wrote the script and last worked with Seligman on her 2020 feature debut Shiva Baby, Bottoms follows Edebiri and Sennott as lesbian losers Josie and PJ whose status as “ugly, gay and untalented” has knocked them to the very bottom of the social food chain. Even worse, Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittney (Kaia Gerber), the two cheerleaders they’re obsessively in love with, barely acknowledge their existence. When a rumor starts that Josie beat up Isabell’s quarter-back boyfriend, Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine), PJ takes their newfound badass reputation as an excuse to start a self-defense “fight club” in the hopes that Brittney and Isabel will join and finally love them back because, as PJ points out, “That’s basically the point of feminism.”
The most enjoyable thing about Bottoms is its commitment to being completely nonsensical. The world of Bottoms doesn’t resemble anything like planet Earth. It’s an alternate reality where kids beat the shit out of each other at pep rallies, swords appear out of nowhere, and teachers are almost non-existent, save for Mr. G (Marshawn Lynch), who writes this on the chalkboard: ‘Who invented feminism? A. Gloria Steinem B. a man C. another woman.’ At one point, when PJ and Josie are in class, there’s a football player in a cage, out of focus and in the corner of the room, and not only is it not explained, no one even comments on it. It’s not even clear what year the film is set. The only time a cell phone appears on screen, the person holding it is also holding a phone book.
The fact that Bottoms is set in this bizarre space, this kind of heightened reality and camp that feels nothing and everything like being in high school, is one of the film’s strengths. It isn’t bogged down by at-the-moment references to TikTok that would have dated the film before it even came out. It operates on its own completely absurd logic that makes even the most far-fetched plot elements work. The film also calls back to Y2K and early 2000s fashion, which is currently back in style, with Eunice Jera Lee’s costume design creating a look that feels both current and reminiscent at the same time. While the film has been touted as firmly planted in Gen Z culture, Bottoms looks and feels more like raunchy, over-the-top comedies like Bring It On than a true depiction of adolescent life in 2023.
Bottoms can be painfully relatable though, like when the members of the fight club, who are all women, sit around and talk about being sexually assaulted with the same kind of mundane boredom you’d associate with recounting what you had for dinner. Small-town America’s very real obsession with high school football is actual life and death that culminates in a bloody showdown made all the more incredible with the help of Charli XCX and Leo Birenberg’s 80s-style synth score. The film also has some truly gratifying needle drops, like Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” which will have elder millennials everywhere frothing at the mouth.
Bottoms is also stacked with a likable, hilarious cast led by Sennott and Edebiri, whose real-life friendship allows them to riff off of each other endlessly and with ease. Both Sennott and Edebiri, the latter of whom broke into the mainstream in the Hulu original series ‘The Bear’, have proven themselves to be rising stars, and Bottoms is a showcase of their evolving talents. Ruby Cruz, Nicholas Galitzine, and Marshawn Lynch are all strong supporting players, but it’s Havana Rose Liu who is the real scene stealer. Liu is both hilarious and endearing.
Bottoms is a truly laugh-out-loud rollercoaster ride from start to finish that already feels like a classic. It delights in riffing off teen sex comedies of the past, while also being unapologetically queer and current. Bottoms joins other genre classics like American Pie, Superbad, and more recent entries like Blockers, as a memorable satire about surviving high school that packs a serious, bloody punch.