A welcome addition to stilted conversations that make you squirm with second-hand embarrassment, Bottoms is writer/director Emma Seligman’s follow up to her 2020 debut, Shiva Baby, once again demonstrating her affinity for awkward comedy. Here it’s within a completely different genre: a raunchy high school sex comedy. Jokes come fast and hard, like a skit show with the classic plot of two high school kids who just wanna get laid. Only here those kids are lesbians.
Bottoms follows the straight man / funny man duo of Josie (Ayo Edebiri) and PJ (Rachel Sennot), the “ugly, untalented gays,” – a line from the principal – who are absolutely smitten with their high school’s cheerleaders, Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Jordan Gerber). PJ is outgoing and scheming and passionate, while Josie is neurotic and introverted. So, what’s the solution to their coming of age plot? Fight Club, high school style.
Pj and Josie conjure a series of lies to entice girls to join their empowering women’s club, with Mr. G (Marshawn Lynch), an aloof divorcee, as their supervisor. The club grows closer, the lies are harder to maintain, ups and downs, broken noses, two explosions, yadda yadda yadda…you know how it goes.
But even when you know how the story might end you don’t know how it’s going to get there. And when I say you don’t know, I mean you really don’t know. The film is so much stranger than I imagined, going places I hadn’t anticipated. The explicit trailer gives a decent description of what’s in store, but when your finally sitting down and noticing how all of the extras look as if their in different movies, or how nearly every legible sign in the background is a reference to sexual innuendos, you can really appreciate the rollercoaster you didn’t know you signed up for.
Even more impressive: the jokes don’t feel stuck in time. There’s a sense that recent cultural conversations about the LGBTQ community have really informed the comedy in the film, yet the humor doesn’t feel preachy or insincere. Jokes manage a healthy balance of contemporary and universal references that build on each other to a satisfying delivery, while leaving room for smaller jokes to breathe throughout each scene.
The big moments still take up most of the focus but if you’ve got a knack for details you’re bound to spot something odd in the background. Maybe you’ll notice that in one classroom a student has been locked in a cage, or maybe you’ll be stupefied by the number of bomb jokes. It’s an iSpy of strangeness with something for everyone to find.
Bottoms is an absolute blast, not just as a raunchy comedy but as pure entertainment. It was a joy to see Emma Seligman and Ayo Edebiri collaborate once again on a project so different from their previous work, yet so wonderfully bizarre and genuinely funny. The cast share such tantalizing chemistry that never grows stale and the production resonates perfectly with the tone of the script. It’s refreshing that something this absurd is actually this good.