Two unpopular queer high school students start a fight club to have sex before graduation.


Pam says:

Nerds rule in the new teen spoof with heart “Bottoms” starring Ayo Edebiri (“The Bear”) as Josie and Rachel Sennott as PJ.  The high school gay besties enter their senior year as lackluster as they did every other year, but a spark of ingenuity to start a women’s empowerment club aka “fight club” to help land them a chance to lose their virginity before they go to college gives them more than they bargained for.  It’s harshly humorous as it mocks every teen trope, and pokes fun at the difficulties women encounter from an early age.

“Bottoms” takes us back to the awkwardness of high school and growing up from a female’s perspective which makes it a unique viewpoint.  It’s raw, sometimes raunchy, and increasingly violent, but these are characters we feel for (let’s face it, most of us weren’t the popular cheerleaders during that time) and we root for them.  

As we get to know PJ and Josie, we learn about a half-century old rivalry between two schools and violence looms large as the football game day nears.  Meanwhile, the jocks are the focal of attention and they rule the school in an incredibly misognynistic way.  Male teachers and leaders in the school are no exception to the rule as evidenced by any and all interactions with our lovable nerds.  The tone of the film gently shifts as it becomes more violent and uses references of bombings and suicides to be comedic, but it’s anything but that.  These jarring topics take you out of the over-the-top story and into a sad reality, missing the mark but still making a point.  

This is PJ and Josie’s story for them to learn about life, grow up, and actually see themselves for who they are as well as how important friendship is.  Edebiri and Sennott carry the film with incredible skill and with a talented supporting cast of characters, “Bottoms” is over the top fun as it mocks toxic masculinity and recalls historical gender inequities that haunt us yet today.  Superficially, this is a typical teen movie, but as you peel back the layers, there’s so much more.  It does, however, push the boundaries with unexpected bouts of violence, a gory final act, and  and several shocking comments, but because we have grown to love our two protagonists, we see it through to the end. And because it highlights the importance of women supporting one another, the story has heart.  

2 1/2 Stars


Chuck says:

The concept of “subtlety” and the genius of Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” kept popping up in my mind as I watched “Bottoms,” Emma Seligman’s miscalculated satire set in a high school that likely exists in one of the universes of “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.” The theme – the importance of empowering young women, who are often marginalized and overlooked in their teen years – is timely and needs to be addressed.  However, the way in which Seligman and her co-writer Rachel Sennott go about this is misguided and overwrought, the tone they take leans more towards shocking the audience rather than sincerely driving home their point.

Entering their senior year, PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) are desperate. No, their worries aren’t about their GPA but rather losing their virginity.  The fact that they are gay and the objects of their affections – cheerleaders Isabel and Brittany (Havana Liu and Kaia Gerber) – may be straight isn’t holding them back. No, it’s their fear of rejection.  Exploiting a rumor that they both went to jail over the summer and are tough as nails, PJ and Josie start a self-defense club, one they feel sure will get many members and hopefully the attention of their crushes.

What they don’t anticipate is that the group turns into a fight club, one in which these girls-with-issues vent their rage by pummeling one another.  This feels good in the moment and the long-term effect of these sanctioned beatings is an increase in confidence for all concerned.  Suddenly, those on the bottom of the high school hierarchy are strutting their stuff and no longer backing down when faced with instances of sexism or homophobia. All of this is good…until it isn’t, and things go too far when the club vandalizes the home of the star football player for cheating on Isabel.  Things spiral out of control from there.

Without question, there are some effective moments throughout, due in large part to Sennott and Edebiri, their scenes suffused with energy and tension, while Ruby Cruz is a stand-out as Hazel, a smart, attractive young woman everyone overlooks, who happens to have a penchant for explosives.  These characters are well-drawn and appealing, so much so I wish they were in a better movie.

The tone is all wrong here, the approach so heavy-handed and obvious, it robs the message of its thunder. The football players wear nothing but their uniforms, as they too are stereotyped, teachers read nudie mags in class, the principal uses sexist slurs over the intercom to describe our two heroines, and the attractive girls in the fight club come up with a unique fundraiser – they sell their used underwear to old men in the school parking lot. Subtle, this movie ain’t and it suffers for it, as Seligman’s desire to shock undercuts her attempts to enlighten. Unfortunately, “Bottoms” is no “Assassination Nation” (2018) or “Spontaneous” (2020), films that cover similar issues far more effectively by telling their stories in a way that doesn’t obscure their message.

1 1/2 Stars

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