Bottoms (review) – a wickedly entertaining movie that has cult queer-classic written all over it

4th November 2023

Bottoms is now playing in cinemas nationwide.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

There is an unhinged satirical charm at the core of Emma Seligman’s hilarious, proudly queer and utterly bonkers sophomore mash-up of Heathers, Booksmart and Fight Club. Bottoms. Following her debut picture, Shiva Baby, Seligman once again teams up with fellow writer and actor Rachel Sennott as they joyously rip apart the classic high school comedy through an unpredictable and twisted celebration of the hidden voices that are so often the butt of High School comedy movie jokes.

Seligman’s film never aims to take itself seriously but also understands how queer kids and girls are pushed to the side of every school corridor in the jungle of hormones, popularity and power that makes High School life tick. Here, the foundations of school life are exaggerated to dizzying heights as lesbian friends PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) attempt to increase their social status by pulling two popular cheerleaders, Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber).

PJ and Josie’s hopes of climbing up the High School ladder are given an unexpected but unpredictable boost after Isabel’s boyfriend, the uber-popular footballer and man-child, Jeff, the brilliant Nicholas Galitzine, fakes being hit by Josie’s car after an argument with Isabel. When the girls arrive at school the following day, they suddenly find themselves labelled as brutal, violent and unscrupulous lesbians with a taste for blood. Much to Josie’s apprehension, PJ quickly latches on to this new image, lying about them having spent time in juvenile detention over the summer. As the girl’s popularity grows, much to the disdain of the jocks, they establish a girl’s only fight club, and their heart’s desires begin to materialise. But this popularity comes at a price as Jeff’s football bro, Tim (Miles Fowler), begins to dig into the validity of their summer claims.

Seligman’s movie operates at a breathtaking pace, never allowing the audience time to relax as it bounces from joke to joke before bathing us in an eccentric, bloody and wild finale with more than a few explosive nods to Heathers. Here, a truly exceptional cast led by the wonderful Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott are allowed to play freely with their characters, embellishing on what makes them tick as they joyously unpick gender roles, sexuality and high school sexism through Seligman and Sennott’s unconventional and raucous screenplay. From Ruby Cruz’s down-trodden Hazel, who just wants to kiss PJ, to Summer Joy Campbell’s fiery and socially awkward Sylvie, every character is beautifully formed as Bottoms pays homage to a series of cutting-edge high school comedies while stamping its own unique style on the genre.

While Bottoms may not have the viciously sharp satirical edge of Heathers, there is much to admire in its conversations on high school life, modern feminism, casual homophobia and social exclusion based on popularity, even if they get lost slightly in the madcap rollercoaster ride that ensues. But this occasional lack of focus is easily forgiven, given the creativity and deft performances on display in a wickedly entertaining movie that has cult queer-classic written all over it.

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