Bottoms Is a Top-Class Teen Comedy

Photo credit: Patti Perret courtesy 2023 Orion Releasing LLC. All Rights Reserved.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, films like Bottoms might not exist.

Recently in a review for Strays, I was lamenting that comedies today don’t let funny people be funny. Moreover, movies like Strays shouldn’t have to exist because the studio comedy we know and love is making a comeback. There shouldn’t have to be such an elaborate gimmick to get Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher, and Randall Park in a movie together. In that review, I mentioned No Hard Feelings, Joy Ride, and, Theater Camp as examples from this year alone that support my case of the epic return of outrageous comedies. Another movie can be added to that list and could be the best out of the aforementioned group: Emma Seligman’s teen sex comedy Bottoms, starring Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edibiri. 

PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Edibiri) are two queer high school seniors who have massive crushes on two of the most popular girls at their school though are barely noticed. In an effort to hook up with Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber), the two best friends start up a fight club under the guise of teaching self-defense but only have one goal: to lose their virginities before they graduate. 

Ayo Edebiri as Josie and Rachel Sennott as PJ in BOTTOMS.
Ayo Edebiri as Josie and Rachel Sennott as PJ in BOTTOMS. Photo credit: Courtesy of ORION Pictures Inc. © 2023 Orion Releasing LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Seligman came onto the scene with her 2021 anxiety-inducing comedy Shiva Baby (also starring Sennott) and, from that feature alone, you could tell she was going to be a major voice in Hollywood going forward. Her debut was a claustrophobic and darkly comedic take on young Jewish anxiety that featured great performances across the board. Bottoms definitely has some DNA from Shiva Baby but feels bigger and bolder in every way possible. 

Not only is Bottoms a teen-sex comedy, but it also serves as a parody of many teen-sex comedies that preceded it. To be both a genre film and a parody of said genre isn’t an easy act. But, with Seligman’s confident direction and hilarious writing from her and Sennott, Bottoms is a total riot. 

Every single trope from every high school comedy you’ve seen is here. Football jocks, outlandish teachers, horny teenagers, homecoming football—you name it, it’s all here. What sets Bottoms apart from many inferior movies in this genre is that the tropes are played for jokes. So you have football jocks in this movie, but these are the (respectfully speaking) dumbest jocks you’ve ever seen. You don’t see them play two consecutive plays of football but they’re constantly in their pads the whole movie. Or the eccentric teacher that we’ve seen so many times is played by former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch who starts reading pornographic magazines in the middle of class (more on Lynch later).

Essentially, by making fun of all the components of a high school comedy, Seligman and Sennott have created their own hilarious and bodacious high school comedy that will age really well. An important aspect of the studio comedy was the high school comedy which hopefully is making a comeback as well. It feels that streaming services ruined this genre by making so many of these movies and none of them even come close to films like Superbad or 21 Jump Street. 2019’s Booksmart and Bottoms give me hope that this genre will come roaring back—and evolve by allowing different types of characters to take center stage. 

Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri in BOTTOMS.
Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri in BOTTOMS. Photo credit: Courtesy of ORION Pictures Inc.
© 2023 Orion Releasing LLC. All Rights Reserved.

What makes Bottoms a rocking 88-minute ride is two great lead performances by Sennott and Edibiri. Sennott is a future superstar and easily one of the funniest people in Hollywood (very few people have better line deliveries than her). She was stellar in Shiva Baby and stole every scene in Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. Bottoms is another showcase for her and it’s clear Seligman and her have something special with their collaborations. We used to have many frequent director-actor collaborations but it seems that isn’t the case anymore. Seligman and Sennott should never stop making movies together—they’re a knockout duo. 

2023 seems to be the year of Ayo Edibiri who is simply one of the most talented people working right now. She’s a terrific actress and a great writer. After showing off her dramatic chops in The Bear, in Bottoms, she flashes her comedic abilities and passes with flying colors. Her chemistry with Sennott is similar to Jonah Hill and Michael Cera’s in Superbad, a movie that Bottoms is clearly paying homage to. Toward the beginning, Edibiri has a very funny monologue where she starts spiraling in a car about her life and it absolutely sells you on Edibiri’s talent. 

Rachel Sennott stars as PJ, Havana Rose Liu as Isabel and Ayo Edebiri as Josie in a car at nighttime in BOTTOMS.
Rachel Sennott stars as PJ, Havana Rose Liu as Isabel and Ayo Edebiri as Josie in BOTTOMS. Photo credit: Courtesy of ORION Pictures Inc. © 2023 Orion Releasing LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The supporting cast is a ton of fun as well. Nicholas Galitzine is having the time of his life playing Jeff, the high school quarterback. I would bet a lot of money he took a lot of inspiration from Chris Evans in Not Another Teen Movie. Both Liu and Gerber play the role of the popular girls perfectly and I especially got a kick out of Gerber’s vapid Brittany—especially when she calls PJ a Dutch boy. But, the best supporting performance of the movie is Marshawn Lynch as Mr. G, hands down. 

A quick note to the readers: I am a big Seattle Seahawks fan (Lynch’s former team) and might be biased in my evaluation of Lynch’s performance. However, every single line Lynch says is laugh-out-loud hilarious. It’s not even the stuff he says, but the things he’s doing in the background of scenes are almost as funny. After watching Lynch for many years tear down NFL defenses, it was an absolute joy to watch him bring down the house in a movie. 

If there were any knocks on Bottoms, it would be the same issues I had with Shiva Baby in that the movie absolutely works in the vacuum it exists in. This isn’t a major flaw, but it makes the writing feel limited. Even though Bottoms is a bigger movie than Seligman’s debut feature, I think she has the ability to make something extremely ambitious (hopefully with Sennott).

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Bottoms is that these three women—Emma Seligman, Rachel Sennott, and Ayo Edibiri—are going to have major roles in Hollywood going forward. It feels so great to watch them at the precipice of what are going to be massive careers. Bottoms is just the start and this trio is going all the way to the top.

Written by Aqib Rasheed

AQIB RASHEED is a staff writer at Film Obsessive. Member of the Chicago Indie Critics and served as the Resident Film Critic for the Loyola Phoenix from 2021-2022. An admirer of movies, old and new, from all over the world. President of the Al Pacino and David Fincher fan clubs.

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