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Bottoms Review

September 6, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
BOTTOMS Image Credit: ORION Pictures
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Bottoms Review  

The teen sex comedy is a genre that has felt dead for close to 20 years now, and honestly? Not much of a value was lost.

Not to say there weren’t some really good flicks under that umbrella, but when it was revitalized in the very late 90’s by American Pie, several movies came out to capitalize on that wave, and the returns were incredibly diminishing. Especially when you watch a lot of those flicks through 2023 eyes and see just how much of the jokes in each flick are Gay Panic humor.

Take EuroTrip, for instance. People typically have good memories of that, and I won’t lie: even in recent years, watching it for the first time made me laugh out loud several times! And the “Scotty Doesn’t Know” scene is iconic. But by-and-large, it’s not a particularly great movie. Way too much homophobia, and many of the jokes don’t land. For every good solid laugh you get out of the flick, Eurotrip has about a dozen jokes that, at best, don’t work. And at worst, are offensive nowadays.

There has been a minimal effort in recent years to sort of reclaim the teen sex comedy genre with flicks like Blockers. That one in particular featured a female led cast—something the previous era would not have really considered because girls were the prize in their movies, not the developed characters—trying to ditch their virginity at their prom, much to their parents’ chagrin. It was an estrogen powered American Pie that co-starred John Cena butt-chugging.

Still, Blockers was another “sometimes you laugh, sometimes you don’t” effort, and it didn’t exactly set the filmmaking world on fire. Personally, it amazed me that all of these years later, we are still having characters projectile vomit in films to elicit “laughs”. And ultimately, we did not see another revitalization of the genre after Blockers hit the cinema.

But what about the 2023 shot at rekindling that fire, Bottoms?

The movie, made by Emma Seligman and one of its own stars, Rachel Sennott, sees two unpopular loser BFF lesbians, PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri), desperately seeking to get together with their crushes, the much more popular cheerleading duo of Isabel and Brittany. After a strange misunderstanding leads much of the school to believe PJ and Josie spent summer vacation in juvenile detention, the two start a self-defense club at school as a way to impress others and maybe get into the pants of their dream girls.

What this movie assumes we never knew was missing from our teen sex comedies was blood and violence, as the premise of the flick sees the girls fight each other and the bullying school football team. It doesn’t hold back, as we spend a lot of time with the stars bearing the scars of battle. And a final confrontation gives into hilarious violent absurdity.

As much as I’ve compared Bottoms to the teen sex comedies of yore, it actually has more in common with its fellow 2023 outing, Polite Society, which decided that coming of age comedy needed to be combined with bloody zaniness. It turned out I really enjoyed Polite Society earlier this year. So how did Bottoms fare? Well…


+ Rachel Sennott follows up her star-making supporting character turn in Bodies Bodies Bodies last year with this effort, and she’s just as bright here in a more expanded role. Edebiri’s Josie is the more level-headed and sensible of the best friends, allowing Sennott to play frantic in her role as PJ. She is a superball of intensity and excitement here, and it seems like there’s barely a word out of her mouth that her character thought through before spilling. Most of the genuine laugh lines in Bottoms belong to Sennott.

+ The movie is bizarre in a way that worked for me, but may not work for others. This is by no means a hyper-realistic look at modern high school life. It quite often feels like a “Not Another Teen Comedy meets Glee” level parody of high schools as they are portrayed in fiction. The football team is sinister and heralded as gods by the school (including a repainted Creation Of Adam to really drive the point home). The quarterback is a flamboyant narcissist. The principal is a straight-up asshole antagonist to our heroes. And Marshawn Lynch plays a disinterested and easily-swayed History teacher reading porno mags during class.

If you are looking for something to relate to your own high school experience or that of students attending school now, Bottoms isn’t even trying to be that. It’s just turning everything up to twelve and going for laughs at how silly it all is. For me, it worked.

The movie doesn’t even hit the 90 minute mark, and given that you have a cast of girls forming a fight club, you already know what that means: most of the characters are wildly underdeveloped. Beyond PJ and Josie, only one of their love interests is given much to do (Isabel), while the other is tasked with Be Near Isabel And Look Hot most of the time.

Another girl in the club, Hazel, is relevant and important, but beyond her, you’ve got The Weirdo That Huffs Paint, The Somewhat Christian One, The One That Is Famous, I Guess?, and The Several Others That Just Stand Around. I get that this is PJ and Josie’s movie, but they do actively form a CLUB, and I barely know any of the characters in it.

There’s a character who shows up in the third act, a kind of Old Gay Mentor to Josie in particular, and it feels like we are supposed to know who she is. It left me wondering if any earlier scene of hers had been cut entirely. But when she does show up, out of the blue, it was kind of a confusing moment that slowed the movie down a bit and felt out of place.

I’m really wondering if that was an editing mistake or if the Sennott and Seligman thought their movie was too short and just threw that moment in to buff up the runtime. But if you cut it out entirely here, you’re not missing much.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
A preliminary list update has this as #13 of the 74 2023 new release movies I’ve seen, so clearly I’m a fan. I ultimately put it right next to Polite Society on the list because they are so similar in style and quality. I laughed early and often at Bottoms, and I absolutely recommend you check it out. What else came out this week? Equalizer 3? Come on. (Equalizer 3 may be fantastic, I don’t know, I never saw any of them).

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Bottoms, Rob Stewart