‘Bottoms’ Review: Hard Knocks and Loud, Crass Queer Truths

This bloody sex comedy is somehow still a salve to the modern queer comedy.


Best friends Josie (Ayo Edibiri) and PJ (Rachel Sennott) stand in front of their neighboring lockers. They’ve been vandalized, once again, with homophobic slurs: “Faggot #1” and “Faggot #2.” 

“I’m Faggot #2 this time?” PJ dejectedly moans. She’s not displeased by the homophobic bullying, but disappointed that she has been deemed the “sidekick” of her and Josie’s lesbian loser duo act. 

Emma Seligman’s Bottoms is loud and crass from the jump. PJ and Josie are a loser-virgin friend duo with a desperation to get laid, joining the ranks of Superbad’s Seth and Evan, Booksmart’s Molly and Amy, and all of the intense losers, virgins, and stoners scattered amongst Dazed and Confused. High schoolers desperate to get laid by women is not a new trope, and at this point, lesbian high schoolers desperate to get laid by women isn’t all that fresh either. But PJ and Josie are crass, aggressive, and frankly, pretty unlikeable in their pursuit of pussy in a way that is genuinely thrilling.

The two friends are at the bottom of their school’s food chain—not just because they are gay (because to dislike someone simply for being gay in 2023 in high school is a major faux pas), but because they are, as they self-describe and are described by some of their less kind schoolmates, gay and untalented and ugly. 

After a lifetime of being dismissed by their beautiful cheerleader crushes Brittany (Kaia Gerber) and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), and mocked by the football team (especially the beloved quarterback Jeff, played with earnest and full-throated camp by Nicholas Galitzine), PJ and Josie find a way out of the social trenches thanks to a falsified rumor being spread about a stint in juvie over the summer.

The two girls use the momentum from this rumor to start what quickly becomes an all-girls fight club. Losers, nerds, and cheerleaders alike beat the shit out of each other with no real skill or technique, embracing the thrill of bloodlust as pseudo-therapy. While PJ is more so the leader, Josie only half-heartedly pushes back against all of her intensity and frequently lies and manipulates for her own gain. These are not nice, gentle, yearning lesbians. 

Bottoms is practically post-postmodern, taking the tone of the occasionally over-the-top performances from films like Scream and Movie 43 and turning them into a mimicable art form. Liu and Galitzine are standouts in this specific style of comedy acting. Liu transitions between scream laughing and scream crying with ease, a veritable hysterical ditz with a heart-of-gold. And Galitzine plays a horned-up football player who is both a little infantile and a little effeminate with pitch perfection. With the way his cronies, the school, and hot moms support him, Jeff is at moments reminiscent of a little prince. 

Bottoms is a salve to the modern sanitized queer comedy. It’s for the girls who obsessively talk about fucking other girls in high school with no idea how to even navigate even the beginnings of such a thing. It’s for the girls who developed the tendencies to find cues in fleeting attentions from prettier girls. It’s for girls who don’t know what to do with how shit the world has treated us all; Bottoms treats assault, homophobia, bullying, and the general, inescapable air of female oppression with a shrugging “it be like that,” which frankly feels more affirming than some other, more earnest, recent attempts at grappling with the inherent struggles of being a womanhood. 

Bottoms takes a few story turns that push the film toward the totally absurd, and I think it’s likely that these moments will turn some people off. But I’m excited by what Bottoms has to offer, absurdity and all. I can’t stomach an artistic landscape where there are only gentle queer girl caresses represented. As PJ so succinctly puts at one point, some things we do are simply in hopes of “putting our fingers inside each other.” I’m glad we’re valuing those queer truths as much as the softer ones. 

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