Movie Review: Bottoms

Emma Seligman’s feature debut, 2020’s Shiva Baby, was a claustrophobic, unsettling comedy that put Rachel Sennott’s Danielle in an awful scenario during a shiva, where we felt every ounce of tension and discomfort conceivable throughout a painful 78 minutes.

As we saw Danielle’s position worsen, Shiva Baby felt more like Uncut Gems than a regular comedy. Seligman’s ability to maintain that tension throughout the picture, while keeping Shiva Baby both amusing and cringe-worthy, was a credit to their talents as a director, making their second movie a widely awaited event.


Bottoms, on the other hand, is diametrically opposed to Seligman’s work on Shiva Baby, since this second feature feels more akin to Not Another Teen Movie than a Safdie Brothers picture. Despite the fact that this is a total departure from what we might anticipate from a Seligman film, Bottoms is one of the most ludicrous and entertaining adolescent comedies in years, following in the lines of dark teen comedy classics such as Heathers, Mean Girls, and Welcome to the Dollhouse. In just two films, Seligman has demonstrated that she is equally adept at both incredibly grounded, taut humour and overdone, over-the-top comedy.

Josie and PJ, two adolescent lesbians wanting to lose their virginity to the school cheerleaders, are played by Ayo Edebiri and Sennott (who also co-wrote Bottoms with Seligman). Kids at their school, they claim, don’t hate them for being homosexual; they hate them for being gay, untalented, and unattractive. After an encounter with Jeff (Red, White & Royal Blue’s Nicholas Galitzine), the high school’s dumb star player, the duo decide to create a fight club at their school in order to get closer to the attractive females.

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Screenshot 22Josie wants Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), Jeff’s girlfriend, while PJ wants Brittany (Kaia Gerber), Isabel’s best friend whose entire identity is that she does whatever Isabel does. Under the careful eye of their instructor, Mr. G (Marshawn Lynch), PJ and Josie move closer and closer to surrendering their virginity to their crushes, despite the fact that their scheme may be discovered.

Bottoms is an absurdist spin on the traditional high school comedy, and it doesn’t take long to see that. On the first day of school, we hear the principal state over the intercom that reading is not permitted this year, while Mr. G delivers a test on Women Murdered in History and the football team keeps one of their most extreme players in a cage. And, regardless of how many bombs you anticipate to see in this film, you’re probably incorrect. Bottoms is a film about a high school-sanctioned combat club, so Seligman’s tale had to be silly, and those unique quirks make it so much more fun and crazy than if it had played this premise straight.

Bottoms also serves as a terrific platform for two of today’s top up-and-coming comedians, Edebiri and Sennott. It frequently has the humorous tone of their earlier show together, Ayo and Rachel Are Single, and the two bounce off each other well. Whatever adventure Bottoms throws at them, they have a terrific relationship.

Sennott gets to portray PJ, an in-charge bullshitter who frequently speaks before thinking, assuming that things would fall into place in the end. She gets to develop her acting muscles more here than we’re used to (particularly when compared to Shiva Baby or even Bodies, Bodies Bodies), and watching her get worked up usually results in enormous chuckles.

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Meanwhile, in a year that has seen Edebiri in everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem to The Bear, Bottoms is among her strongest performances. Josie is shy and self-conscious, but she is optimistic about the opportunities that the fight club may provide for her. As we see Josie mature, Edebiri finds new ways to make her character humorous, as she transitions from cautious and self-conscious to determined and dangerous. Edebiri has had a fantastic year, but Bottoms may be the best showcase of her enormous comic abilities so far.

Screenshot 23Bottoms have a fantastically hilarious supporting cast that helps make this absurd universe work. Liu and Gerber are both fantastic at seeming like a spoof of high school movie clichés but without becoming caricatures. Even if Liu’s reality is heightened, her narrative and her trek away from her bad partner never feel like a comedy. Galitzine is also pretty amusing as the dumb Jeff, who can hardly function as a human being yet is idolised by the whole high school.

Bottoms mocks many schools’ fixation with football, and Galitzine makes his character’s misplaced infatuation even more humorous. Lynch, though, maybe the MVP (no pun intended) of Bottoms’ supporting ensemble, since he makes every appearance stand out. While he doesn’t have much to do in Bottoms but comes up and dominates every scene he’s in, he does it brilliantly.

Screenshot 24Despite Bottoms’ innate quirkiness, Seligman and Sennott’s screenplay manages to make this an excellent drama about friendship and standing up to authority. Even when the punches and blood start flying, PJ and Josie’s friendship remains grounded, despite the fact that the plot is mostly a parody. If there’s one thing Shiva Baby and Bottoms have in common, it’s Seligman’s commitment to ensuring that, despite the lunacy of this style of comedy, there remains a compelling tale of constructive growth and its key characters finding who they actually are.

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Bottoms guarantee that the summer movie season concludes with one of the year’s greatest comedy. It’s a deliciously strange picture that’s always surprising, thanks to the two lead performances by Edebiri and Sennott. Seligman has already proven her skill in both restraint and wild, over-the-top humour with the one-two punch of Shiva Baby and Bottoms—and we need more comedies from her ASAP.