"Bottoms" stars Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri, Ruby Cruz, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, Miles Fowler, Dagmara Domińczyk, and Marshawn Lynch. Released on August 25, 2023, the film has two high school senior girls organizing a fight club to hook up with cheerleaders.
The film was directed by Emma Seligman, who also directed "Shiva Baby". In every teenager's life, they hope to score with the hottest people in school before moving to the next chapter of their lives. They even attempt to do something crazy to accomplish this goal. In the case of these two high school senior girls, that includes following Edward Norton's blueprint of forming a fight club. This week has people already sending their kids back to school, so it makes sense for me to talk about the latest high school comedy that's already receiving strong word of mouth. This teen comedy reunites up-and-coming filmmaker Emma Seligman with her "Shiva Baby" collaborator Rachel Sennott to revive the teen sex narrative for the next generation of teenagers. However, instead of a scenario involving boys getting laid with the girls, we have one featuring lesbians attempting to get some girl-on-girl action. Does it pack enough punches in its concept to become the next teen movie classic? Let's find out.
The story follows PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Edebiri), two lesbian friends at Rockbridge Falls High School who've never had sex. Their opportunities arise when they plan to hook up with popular cheerleaders Isabel (Liu) and Brittany (Gerber). Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse when the friends' attempt to impress them leads to them injuring Jeff (Galitzine), Isabel's quarterback boyfriend. As a result, rumors begin to spread that PJ and Josie wind themselves in the juvenile hall over the summer. Along with a group of girls, including Hazel Callahan (Cruz), PJ and Josie decide to start a fight club to enforce female self-empowerment. But, of course, the real reason is that they want to have sex with Isabel and Brittany. This then follows a series of crazy events that threaten to expose PJ and Josie's secrets, put the high school football team in jeopardy, and jeopardize their friendship.
I've heard nothing but great things about this film, which I discovered while surfing the web. It has a concept that's been done in other teen comedies but with a lesbian twist and a comical approach to the "fight club" scenario. More importantly, one of the film's producers happens to be Elizabeth Banks, who continues to impress audiences as an actress and even a filmmaker. That includes her recent directorial effort, "Cocaine Bear", a bizarre depiction of the real-life Cocaine Bear that's mildly entertaining despite falling short of its insane concept. So now, she's taking a crack at another weirdly intriguing film that puts its focus on female empowerment, with Seligman taking charge of the high school version of David Fincher's 1999 classic. The result is another near-perfect blend of high school nostalgia and modern-day commentary that's also one of the best teen comedies I've seen.
"Bottoms" is basically like any other high school teen sex comedy we've seen in the 80s and 90s regarding its formula. We got the usual misfits attempting to fit in with the high school crowd or score some chicks, and even several mishaps leading to a wild, hilarious, or heartfelt moment. By "mishaps", I mean stuff that could've gotten them expelled or worse. I'm not joking. Some of these characters in the movie did some crazy stuff that seemed downright illegal, yet they got away with them scott-free, including the third act. It's no wonder people still enjoy these types of comedies. It's because they depict these scenarios as inconsequential to their teenage audiences. But who cares? They're highly entertaining to witness, like the rest of the film.
While it offers nothing too different from its cliches, "Bottoms" reinvigorates the classic narrative through its sublime direction, themes, and a talented cast of young actors. Without watching "Shiva Baby", I thought Emma Seligman made a huge first impression on me regarding her handling of its representation, tone, and commentary. With the main characters being queer, "Bottoms" stands out because it makes this demographic more welcoming. They have the similar traits we usually expect from other high school misfits, like PJ being self-centered and mean-spirited and Josie being socially awkward yet generous. However, Seligman filled these traits with charisma, heart, and even laughs to make the characters as entertaining as a high school mascot at a sports event.
As for its commentary, "Bottoms" is best described as a satirical perspective of female empowerment, queerness, adolescence, victimization, and toxic masculinity. It's like "Barbie", but without the overly pink fantasy world filled with Barbies and Kens. It's a tough act to accomplish since these themes can be offensive on both sides if misused, but lo and behold, Seligman was able to pull that off, too. Through her screenplay, which she co-wrote with Rachel Sennott, Seligman explores these topics in an insane yet heartfelt manner but also comes packed with well-written dialogue and subtle yet fun ideas that don't overstay their welcome. The film is around 90 minutes long, which is a perfect runtime for the film to display the absurdity of its fight club.
Based on the concept alone, "Bottoms" would've come across as another R-rated raunchy teen comedy where most of its plot consists of pervasive language, lots of steamy sex, drugs, and plenty of shock values from the violence. In short, it's not something you want to bring your parents to see. However, that isn't the case. "Bottoms" does feature mature content, but it's used sparingly to avoid alienating the audiences with its constant crudity to generate forced laughs. When used on a specific occasion, including its over-the-top finale, it works just as well as I hoped. The tone has a mixture that's more grounded than absurd, but it's effective in telling a highly entertaining story that saves the insanity for last.
In addition to Emma Seligman's superb take on the tried-and-true formula, "Bottoms" offers an excellent showcase of its cast, who all did a fantastic job with their performances. Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri were absolutely delightful regarding their captivating presence and amusing chemistry. Sennott delivers a performance that highlights PJ's self-absorbed personality. Instead of being painfully irritating, PJ became respectfully tolerable, thanks to Sennott's acting talents. As for Edebiri, what else can I say about her that hasn't been said? She's just that good of an actress. It's not just because of her acting talent and remarkable presence onscreen but also because her recent roles like "The Bear" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" allowed her to express herself. Based on what I've seen from her performance as Josie, I can undoubtedly add "Bottoms" to that list. Ruby Cruz was also great as Hazel, and former NFL player Marshawn Lynch had a solid film debut as Mr. G. Well, technically, his actual big-screen debut was "80 for Brady", in which he played himself, but that doesn't count since it's a cameo.
Overall, "Bottoms" packs a massive punch in its nostalgic high school narrative and current teenage trends. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't have a lot of surprises in the script's genre formula, especially its finale. Regardless, it's still an invigoratingly entertaining and effectively satiric depiction of its teen comedy tropes showcasing the remarkable talents of the up-and-coming filmmaker and stars. Thanks to its excellent cast, refreshing direction, strong screenplay, and well-balanced tone, the film succeeds in winning me over. No sex is required. It's one of the best teen comedies I've seen, but it's also one of the best surprises of the year that shouldn't go unnoticed, especially if you're a fan of the genre.