Emma Seligman’s Bottoms

With 2023 coming to an end, it’s easy to assume that a lot of the year’s heavy-hitter film releases have already come and left theaters. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth thanks to the release of Emma Seligman’s sophomore dark comedy, Bottoms.

The film follows highschool students PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edibiri), two queer teenagers who lust to lose their virginity by any means necessary.

After a lie they “accidentally” spread gives them notoriety, they decide to start a fight club in an attempt to attract cheerleaders in their school away from their football playing boyfriends and towards themselves instead. Through their fight club, a large variety of problems ensue as PJ and Josie dig themselves deeper and deeper into their lie and are eventually forced to face the consequences of their actions.

While I have unfortunately not seen Seligman’s debut film Shiva Baby (also starring Rachel Sennott), I’m fairly certain that it does not have nearly as insane of a plot nor as surreal of a setting. The high school PJ and Josie inhabit is filled to the brim with (intentionally) obnoxious sexual innuendo all over the place.

Bottoms poster

While just referencing penises for a punchline isn’t exactly my sense of humor, the film is filled with more unique jokes which made me and my whole theater laugh, effectively counteracting the aforementioned mediocre raunchy jokes.

Actresses Rachel Sennot and Ayo Edibiri excel as their characters. This wasn’t much of a shock to me, as Sennot gave a hilarious performance in last year’s Bodies, Bodies, Bodies and Edibiri is easily the best character on FX’s The Bear. However, beyond their joke delivery, their friendship and chemistry was one I could watch for hours. The film knows exactly when to be serious and when to return us to the unusually oversexualized world the characters live in.  

A standout aspect in Bottoms that a majority of comedies need to succeed is good editing. Many times in Bottoms a punchline is derived simply from a well timed camera turn, a song in the film having lyrics that are ironic for the events occurring, or something being so blurry and so hard to make out that it’s hysterical, the film knows how to use editing to its advantage.

Furthermore, the film has some impressive practical effects considering how low stakes the plot was. One sequence that really won me over involves an exploding car done completely practically, surprising me with how much more the plot could escalate. While the cinematography was also nothing to particularly write home about, the settings/setpieces were unique enough that cinematographer Maria Rusche didn’t need to do all that much to make the film engaging looking anyway. 

While Bottoms may not have all that much to actually say in terms of subtext, it doesn’t really need to. After all, if touted “great” high school comedies like 2007 film Superbad are allowed to be nothing more than 90 minute quests about teenagers dying to get laid, why can’t Bottoms? The film thrives as a dark comedy similar in themes to classics like Heathers and Fight Club while also bringing a unique touch of modern day humor and satire.

While not all of that humor works, Bottoms stays genuinely engaging from the beginning to the end. In a year that held a long list of good film releases, Bottoms contributes to that list excellently and is a must see before it leaves theaters. 

Letterboxed Score: 4/5

Letterboxd: CaseyDrury04