Two high school girls look offscreen. The left girl is white and has a broken and bandaged nose. The right girl is black and nervously scratches her face.

Film Review: Bottoms

Film Reviews

Director: Emma Seligman

SXSW Debut

Gen Z have made their place in Hollywood and are not going anywhere anytime soon. With Rachel Sennott leading the charge, the Bodies Bodies Bodies and Shiva Baby actress is back, this time with a story of her own. Bottoms, co-written by Sennot and director Emma Seligman, is a classic, American, raunchy high school coming-of-age story made for the new generation. Bottoms has all the trappings of a high school sex comedy: the jock, the cheerleaders, drugs, partying and friends. However, this time it’s about two, self-proclaimed “gay, untalented and ugly” best friends.

PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) are high school seniors trying to get laid before they graduate high school. Like many best friends, they are total opposites from each other. PJ is overly confident, masking insecurities by berating those around her while puffing herself up with exaggerated life experiences. Josie is timid but bites back when pushed to her limit. 

It’s not clear if Bottoms is ironically subverting the high school sex comedy tropes or just taking it over the top. The film often feels as though a Gen Z-er watched Clueless, Superbad, The Breakfast Club and other classic American high school sex comedies and dramas and decided to satirize their melodramatic tones; this could just also be Gen Z’s style of irreverent humor. Think 2019’s Bookmart but less refined and much more mordacious.

PJ and Josie have their eyes set on befriending the two most popular girls in school, Brittany (Kaia Gerber) and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), but become discouraged after another failed attempt to ingratiate themselves. To add insult to injury, PJ and Josie ended up in the principal’s office after a very melodramatic run-in with the school’s beloved quarterback. In an effort to save themselves from being reprimanded, PJ and Josie scheme up the idea that they’re starting a “defense” class (or a fight club, as they put it) to help the girls in their high school protect themselves. Somehow the principal buys this idea, and they’re saved from any wrongdoing. 

Under the supervision of Mr. G (Marshawn Lynch), PJ and Josie reluctantly “teach” the other girls how to defend themselves. Word about their after-school class spreads, and eventually (and surprisingly) Brittany and Isabel show up. 

This is where Bottoms either does or doesn’t work. If you can bear the constant and jolting deviations in tone, the absurdist humor has value. The members of the “fight club” become closer through deep discussions about what it means to be a woman and their use of humor to cope with real adversities that women face daily. Shit eventually hits the fan, and the group suffers from PJ’s pride, and only she can pick up the pieces and bring the group back together.

Bottoms has its shortcomings, but despite the chaotic and fluctuating emotional line, the movie is fun, hilarious and features two gay characters who don’t have to deal with the trauma that often troubles queer characters, constantly fighting to be accepted (for being gay, at least). The film address real issues with genuine humor. I walked away from Bottoms happy that we’ve reached the point in our timeline where we can finally have a gay Superbad. –PJ

Read more reviews of films aimed at Gen Z:
Film Review: Bodies Bodies Bodies
Film Review: On the Come Up