By Megan Bianco
Following a similar trend with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Josh Greenbaum’s Strays, Emma Seligman’s Bottoms is the newest slapstick comedy that doesn’t bother to ground itself in any reality and embraces its farcical atmosphere.
The new high school comedy has been called Paul Weitz’s American Pie (1999) and Greg Mottola’s Superbad (2007) “for lesbians,” but a lot of the movie’s DNA also reminded me of Joel Gallen’s Not Another Teen Movie (2001) and Maggie Carey’s The To Do List (2013).
It’s making fun of its own genre more than actually establishing a proper, realistic universe for the characters in which to live.
Set at your typical, suburban high school, Bottoms depicts PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) as two unpopular, awkward students who want to have girlfriends and lose their virginities before the year is over.
Josie has a thing for a cheerleader, Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), who is dating the star quarterback of the football team, Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine). Meanwhile, PJ has a crush on Isabel’s best friend and fellow cheerleader, Brittany (Kaia Gerber).
In an attempt to boost their chances with the girls, PJ and Josie organize a campus “fight club” in the guise of a self-defense/boost for other misunderstood girls at school.
Bottoms is Seligman’s follow-up to her critical hit Shiva Baby (2020), and is co-written by Sennott, who also starred in the previous movie.
Sennott and Edebiri are both having huge moments in indie and mid-budget Hollywood, and they continue their streak, with Bottoms effortlessly leading the way.
Seligman, like Gerwig, is a millennial who is clearly in tune with the cultural tropes of her generation, and familiar with the teen movies from her childhood that she is playfully mocking.
This includes making fun of school cliques, love triangles and actors in their mid-20s cast as teenagers while barely looking like teenagers. Everyone involved with the film is in on the joke and works well comedically.
But if you generally don’t care for the ironic/absurd anti-humor schtick that is all over Bottoms, you might find many portions of the movie borderline tedious.
“It’s an obvious bad joke, and that’s why it’s funny!” line of thinking doesn’t work for me, personally.
There are small circles on social media that this movie totally caters to and seems to be working for presently. But on a wider scale, it might come off as a bit too niche.