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Bottoms ★★★★



Director: Emma Seligman

Starring: Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri, Ruby Cruz, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, Miles Fowler, Marshawn Lynch, Dagmara Dominiczyk, Punkie Johnson

Release: 22nd September 2023 (PVOD USA only)

In 2020, Emma Seligman’s thesis play, Shiva Baby, premiered at TIFF as her directorial debut film. Starring comedienne Rachel Sennot, the critically acclaimed film became a sleeper hit soon after its release on streaming platform Mubi.  Three years later, the pair are back with a new take on the high school comedy while serving as co-screenwriters.

Starring Sennot, Ayo Edebiri, Nicholas Galitzine and Marshawn Lynch, Bottoms is a satirical high school comedy. Lesbian best friends PJ (Sennot) and Josie (Edebiri) are eager to lose their virginities while furthering their respective crushes with cheerleaders Brittany (Kaia Gerber) and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu). But when PJ and Josie are involved in a minor altercation with quarterback Jeff (Galitzine), they justify their actions by creating a “self-defence” club for girls – which quickly attracts the attention of several female classmates, including Isabel and Brittany.

In comparison to the demure Shiva Baby, Bottoms is a satirical take on the high school comedy that exaggerates the power of the popular (in this case, the football team), who ridicules the weak and the weird. But before the comparisons of similar films such as Heathers and Mean Girls can set the tone, Seligman and Sonnet’s unapologetic approach to the genre takes Bottoms’ narrative to a point that justifies some hard-core violence among women and wears its queerness and feminism as a badge of honour. AJ and Josie are proudly gay, albeit awkward when it comes to their crushes, while the diverse array of female characters offer more than the stereotypical bone-headed jocks who follow in the footsteps of the untouchable yet idiotic Jeff. 

From the shy Josie and brash PJ to the entrepreneurial Brittany, each woman is painted as a doormat who feels forced to adhere to a high school stereotype. So, despite the leads’ opportunistic motives for starting the club, it quickly becomes a haven of sorts as they feel at ease without being judged by their looks or sexuality. Combined with the unrestrained violence that extends past hair-pulling and eye-scratching (driven by the simple goal of protecting themselves), Seligman’s direction builds the camaraderie among the female characters to develop into a heartwarming circle of unconditional support that shines during the film’s biggest moments. Even school teacher Mr. G (Lynch) gets behind their club amid the school’s incessantly haze of misogyny, despite his apparent disdain over his recent divorce.

Seligman and Sonnet’s barb-filled screenplay brilliantly reflects the chaos of high school while examining the complexities of both straight and gay relationships, as well as the need to own one’s identity. The cast is also on point, with Sonnet anchoring them with natural confidence like a loud-mouth Tyler Durden. Standouts include Edebiri, who continues her spectacular year of strong performances as the endearing Josie; and Red, White and Royal Blue’s Galitzine, whose hysterical performance as Jeff elevates the film’s comedic notes.

Destined to be a cult classic, Bottoms builds on the promise of Shiva Baby. Through its heady combination of heart, sharp dialogue and irrepressible defiance of the conventional, it turns the typical high school comedy on its head with a full-on sucker punch.

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