If you go to Scripps, you’ve probably already seen it. But for all the bisexual virgins who haven’t, “Bottoms” is the new film from director Emma Seligman. “Shiva Baby,” her debut feature about a college student dodging awkward encounters at a Jewish wake, became an indie favorite in 2021. While developing “Shiva Baby,” Seligman was also co-writing the sex comedy, “Bottoms.”
“Bottoms” kicks off with two friends, PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri), who are both horny, lonely and lesbian. Tired of being nobodies at their suburban high school, they decide that this year will be different for them. They WILL get laid. “Do you want to be the only girl virgin at Sarah Lawrence?” PJ asks Josie early on.
On one side, there’s PJ, who wears her emotions on her sleeve and bluntly crushes on popular cheerleader Brittany (Kaia Gerber). But where PJ is loud and brash, Josie is quiet and shy. For those who have watched “Superbad,” she is the Michael Cera to Sennott’s Jonah Hill. Josie might be crushing hard on cheerleader Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), but she’d rather say nothing and just focus on making it through the year.
Going along with a rumor that they spent the summer in juvenile detention, Josie and PJ gain a new, tough reputation. Not only are they unpopular outcasts — “the ugly, untalented gays” as their high school principal calls them — but now, they are criminals. Desperate to get their crushes’ attention, they decide to start a fight club where girls knock each other out while bonding over their sexual trauma.
“Bottoms” is the rare high school comedy that is genuinely a ride. Its older brother would be the aforementioned “Superbad,” the 2007 comedy about two nerdy seniors doing everything possible to buy booze and get laid before graduation. But unlike “Superbad,” this is a film that doesn’t care if cishet white men can see themselves in it or not.
“‘Bottoms’ is the rare high school comedy that is genuinely a ride. Its older brother would be the aforementioned “Superbad,” the 2007 comedy about two nerdy seniors doing everything possible to buy booze and get laid before graduation. But unlike ‘Superbad,’ this is a film that doesn’t care if cishet white men can see themselves in it or not.”
One of the best parts about this film is its commitment to the bit. It knows the entire premise is absurd, so it doesn’t feel bound to any kind of realism. The dialogue doesn’t feel even slightly natural; the violence escalates steadily, breaking the boundary between silly and horrific. There are times when jokes cross the line, often by PJ, but Sennott delivers them with such audacity and wit that they never derail the movie.
Absurdist comedies are tricky because once you establish the heightened tone, you have to maintain that threshold even amidst plot and character development — or the entire thing can fall apart. “Bottoms” luckily understands that, keeping the jokes coming at a breakneck speed. Even the quieter, more emotional moments appear to operate on a higher frequency.
Is that always a good thing, particularly in a final stretch that barrels into a climactic musical number, pacing and arcs be damned? Of course not. But ultimately, it’s tough to knock a film that has this much personality, this much ridiculous humor and this good of a cast.
“Bottoms” maintains a high level of mania throughout, with displays of violence and gay frustration that ultimately work to smooth out any typical high school movie tropes. The cast absolutely goes for it. Rachel Sennott can continue playing the same character in every film (i.e. herself) and I’d be fine with it, Kaia Gerber is used exactly the right amount and scene-stealing improv from Marshawn Lynch is a highlight. While its stars are all in their mid-to-late 20s, the film doesn’t try to age them down visually, which only adds to the humor.
“Bottoms” may not appeal to everyone. But its commitment to its own bit can’t be topped.
Hannah Eliot SC ’24 is from San Francisco, California. She likes to surf and procrastinate getting her driver’s license.