Bottoms review – undercooked, unfunny teen romance

Review by Hannah Strong @thethirdhan

Directed by

Emma Seligman


Ayo Edebiri Kaia Gerber Nicholas Galitzine Rachel Sennott


Lot of hype around this SXSW premiere.


Sorry, where is the comedy in this comedy?

In Retrospect.

I am Fight Club's Smirking Cease and Desist Letter.

Two unpopular lesbians attempt to start a fight club at their high school in Emma Seligman's disappointing follow-up to Shiva Baby.

When David Fincher brought Chuck Palahniuk’s landmark cult novel Fight Club to the big screen in 1999, he created a monster. Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden became an inspiration to countless disenfranchised men, apparently lacking the media literacy to understand his particular brand of faux-revolutionary nihilism was self-serving and hollow. It was also a foundational sexual awakening for some, the homoeroticism of seeing men punch each others’ lights out proving similarly inspirational for countless queer people – men and women alike. The film comes full circle with Emma Seligman’s sophomore feature Bottoms, in which two queer teenagers decide to start their own high school fight club in hopes of seducing the cheerleaders they have a crush on.

PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) are “gay, ugly and untalented”, at least according to the other students at their period non-specific high school, where they lust after popular girls Brittany (Kaia Gerber) and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), despite Brittany’s disdain for PJ and the presence of Isabel’s jock boyfriend Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine). After an accident involving Jeff’s leg and Josie’s car, their social stock plummets even further, and the two have a brainwave to create a female-only fight club in order to salvage their reputations and provide self-defence classes to their fellow students…and flirt with Brittany and Isabel, naturally (not doing many favours to the predatory lesbian trope).

This is a scintillating premise for a teen movie – a genre that has become increasingly saturated by heteronormative Netflicks in recent years. Channelling the catty spirit of Heathers, Mean Girls and Jawbreaker, Seligman admirably seeks to present teenage girls in all their goblincore glory (anyone who has ever been, or spent time around, adolescent women will tell you they are much more feral than the majority of teen movies suggest), although the casting of 28-year-old Sennott and Edebiri as “ugly teenagers” does require significant suspension of disbelief. Otherwise, the film’s ensemble is well chosen – Havana Rose Liu is a sweet, ethereal love interest, while Marshawn Lynch’s professionally unprofessional teacher going through a divorce is a scene-stealer.

Unfortunately, the cast is saddled with a half-baked script, which underdelivers on its promise of a queer, female fight club by seeming to forget that’s a crucial element of the story. There are only a handful of moments in the film that relate to the fight club, one of which is a cliche montage sequence – the rest of the run time is padded with romance and comedic beats which rarely land. Sennott and Edebiri (long-time friends of Seligman) are gifted comedians and actors, but there’s a curious lack of actual jokes in the script and moments which appear to be improvised come across as undercooked riffing between close off-screen pals rather than having actual comedic pay-off.

This could be forgiven if Bottoms managed to be subversive or interesting in other ways, but the film quickly becomes a conventional romantic comedy, hitting predictable plot beats only to tack on a wild, bloody third act which comes out of nowhere and as a result feels unearned. It’s a great shame, because the world desperately needs more queer comedies and coming-of-age films, and the creative team here are clearly ambitious and talented, but Bottoms is too muddled and meandering to pack a knock-out punch.

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Published 3 Nov 2023

Tags: Bottoms Emma Seligman


Lot of hype around this SXSW premiere.


Sorry, where is the comedy in this comedy?

In Retrospect.

I am Fight Club's Smirking Cease and Desist Letter.

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