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‘Bottoms’ Review

In the 2023 high school movie of the year, Josie (Ayo Edebiri) and PJ (Rachel Sennott) are two best friends determined to make the most of their senior year. The goal? To hook up with their longtime crushes, school cool-girls Isabelle (Havana Rose-Liu, Mayday) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber). Threatened by violence at the hands of a rival football team, the two start a self defense club for girls at their school, thinking that this is what will win them the affection and lust of their crushes. Bottoms is Emma Seligman’s sophomore feature film, following her breakout feature Shiva Baby, also starring co-writer Sennott. The film follows a classic film trope, that of a pair of friends getting caught up in a lie with the girls they like. Some Like it Hot and 10 Things I Hate About You come to mind. 

On Sunday, October 1st, I attended a screening of the film held in Tishman, and the turnout was robust, of about thirty to forty attendees. This being my second time seeing the film, I took note of the key moments that had the Tishman audience in hysterics. Ayo’s “It’s not gonna happen for me” monologue in the parking lot is certainly a highlight, knowing that it was all improvised on Edebiri’s end. 

Seligman is cultivating a group of repeat collaborators, made up of new faces and breakout stars. Sennott and Edebiri’s chemistry as a dynamic duo is undeniable, so it comes as no surprise that the two friends met while they were students at NYU and have since done Comedy Central bits together over the years and have that comedic spark in Seligman’s film. PJ is the hotheaded friend while Josie is the anxious one, which sets the pair up for a tense yet hilarious dynamic that explodes in the film’s third act, when it is revealed by Hazel that no, Josie and PJ did not go to juvie together, and that the club was a ploy to get close to Brittany and Isabel. Josie is initially hesitant to go through with the club, but once it catches Isabelle’s attention, she gets on board. PJ and Josie tap their history teacher, Mr. G as club advisor. They initially advertise it to him as a “women’s club” while he flips through a magazine called “Divorced and Happy”, with a “Big Booty Babes” descriptor. He gives in after originally suggesting the pair find a female teacher, “I’ll sign off on your period club”. Mr. G is portrayed by none other than retired football running back, Marshawn Lynch. Marshawn’s own participation in the film comes from a place of redemption. When his sister Mareesha came out to him in high school, he wasn’t very accepting but has since become a cheerleader of hers. 

At one of the club meetings, Josie and PJ decide to hold a circle, where they essentially “trauma dump”, in an effort to try and get the girls closer to one another and to legitimize the club. “So, we know that the club has been a place where we can feel empowered physically, but we also thought it could be a safe space and a place where we can open up and talk about our feelings.” PJ nods, thinking of what to follow up with. “Okay, so who’s been raped?” After the girls share their sexual assault experiences, stalkers, and not being appreciated for more than their looks (Kaia Gerber), Mr. G takes his turn and talks about the divorce he’s going through. This scene raises eyebrows and drops jaws, one of the film’s main through lines. 

In the film there are two major musical montages. The first is set to King Princess’ “Pain”, and is evidence of the club being solidified in the girls’ everyday lives. They throw punches, wrestle each other to the ground, and strut around school with black eyes. They feel tough. They’re being trained by two former juvenile detention inmates, or so they think. The second is set to Avril Lavigne’s 2002 hit “Complicated”. It accompanies Josie and PJ’s falling out. When their lie is revealed, they turn on each other, as everyone else turns against them as well.  Mr. G crosses out the word “Feminism” on the chalkboard, because what about starting a “self defense club for girls” with an ulterior motive? The tags written on their lockers are now “Horny Freak #1” and “Horny Freak #2”, which is a nod to the very beginning of the film, when they were “Fag #1” and “Fag #2”.

Emma Seligman’s second feature is the perfect mix of slapstick and physical comedy and heartfelt moments between friends, capturing  teenage malaise perfectly. A parody of the high school comedy, Bottoms is an ode to high schoolers.

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