“Bottoms” releases on digital platforms on Friday, Sept. 22
“Bottoms” is a movie filled to the brim with underground fight clubs, uncomfortable encounters with crushes, female rage and Charli XCX. What more could you want from a queer high school rom-com?
Overshadowed by the continued success of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” I saw “Bottoms” in a nearly empty theater. That being said, “Bottoms” was the most fun viewing experience I’ve had in a while. Painfully awkward at times (OK, most of the time), my friend and I were constantly bursting out in laughter.
Directed by Emma Seligman, “Bottoms” is Seligman’s second film working with actor Rachel Sennott, after “Shiva Baby” released in 2020.
Sennot and Ayo Edebiri co-star as best friends, Josie and PJ, who start a fight club under the guise of female empowerment, when, in reality, they’re actually finding a way to get closer to their crushes and lose their virginity. As the film progresses, they find themselves caught deeper and deeper in the lies they’ve woven.
While most rom-coms in the genre exaggerate the high-school experience, “Bottoms” cranks this element up to the max. There are exploding cars, broken noses, attempted murder and screaming matches in the cafeteria. A principal whose only care is the well-being of his football team and an angsty montage set to the classic tune “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne send the film into full camp.
Edebiri and Sennott have impeccable chemistry onscreen as their characters Josie and PJ. Much of the humor in “Bottoms” relies on the strange moments produced when the pair interacts with the girls they like, who are also best friends. I found myself recoiling in my seat as PJ drags Josie into the conversation and Josie says “Good evening,” miming herself tipping her hat.
These moments work because I believe Edebiri and Sennott as awkward best friends. This connection strengthened through their constant nonverbal communication with each other.
Edebiri and Sennott’s comedic timing couldn’t be better. As they get caught up in their lies, they have to think on the spot, and each time one of them reaches a roadblock in their rambling, the other jumps in just in time to save the pair from being found out. This quick thinking often digs them deeper into the hole they’ve created.
One of my favorite moments in the film is when the girls need to convince their teacher, Mr. G, to advise the “self-defense” club without actually attending it. They sell it to him as a hobby, and after he says he doesn’t have time to advise, Josie hops in with, “You could just, like, have a hobby and decide not to come.”
Mr. G does decide to attend the meeting, and after threatening to shut down the club, he realizes the need for young girls to have a place to learn self-defense. Mr. G learns about feminism for the first time, and, in one of my favorite moments he writes the quiz question for his class: “Feminism. Who started it? A) Gloria Steinem B) A man C) Another woman.”
The feminist themes hold “Bottoms” together. Though the club is founded as a ploy, we see the value in empowerment for a group of girls surviving a high school that is peppered with posters stating, “You look prettier when you smile! He could be looking at you!”
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As the film progresses, we see each of the club members start to feel safe with each other and share more about their lives. While we become closer to the club members, the audience is held at a distance from Josie and PJ. This is the heart of the film’s magic. The audience is positioned with the other girls in the club, only hearing the starring duo’s made-up stories, instead of learning about their real lives.
The film culminates in a scene of perfectly choreographed chaos erupting on the football field. It’s a finale to match all the crazy restlessness building throughout “Bottoms.” As we zoom out from the field, the soft opening synths of Charli XCX’s “party 4 u” lead us into the credits and a delightful blooper reel.
To sum it up in one word, “Bottoms” is fun. It’s paced quickly with a runtime of 92 minutes. Without deep symbolism, “Bottoms” still manages to say something about the importance of feminism and female friendships.
So, grab your besties and go watch “Bottoms” this weekend for an amusing night and a handful (or two) of secondhand embarrassment.