Updated: Sep 18
Emma Seligman's sophomore outing is another astonishingly bold comedy
Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott are two of the most exciting rising talents in Hollywood. They wowed indie film fans with their debut Shiva Baby (2020), which Seligman directed and wrote, and Sennott acted in. Now their follow-up collaboration, sees them in similar roles, with Sennott now contributing as a writer.
Bottoms (2023) finds two high school friends, PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri), at the bottom of the social food-chain, but seeking to romance the popular cheerleaders, Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Britney (Kaia Gerber). They develop a farcical fight club/self-defense class for women, in order to interact and talk with their crushes.
Bottoms brings together some of the most exciting up-and-coming talent in film and television. Edibiri is arguably the cast member that has broken through most, with her starring roles in The Bear (2022-), Abbott Elementary (2021-), and Theater Camp (2023), and having been cast in an upcoming unknown Marvel movie. Edibiri, however, retains her bumbling charm that pairs well with Seligman and Sennott’s script, which leans towards being a dark satire of high school movies than a typical comedy.
The satirical elements in Bottoms are brutally brave, and admirably swing for the fences, pushing the limit on dark subjects. Jokes made about bulimia and suicide astoundingly were pulled off to great effect. Likewise, Bottoms doesn’t seek to hold back on deconstructing its own genre, using a blend of subtle production design along with on-the-nose dialogue about the predictable beats and tropes that high school films take (the farcical ploy to talk to your crush, the escalating stakes, the moment of truth and break up, the reconciliation, etc.). In that sense, Bottoms works much like Deadpool (2016), in wanting to humiliate a genre, while also cheekily playing within its lines.
It is in this somewhat contradictory genre balance that Bottoms loses some of its depth. When in doubt, Seligman and Sennott always veer towards a joke rather than ruminate in emotional or serious moments. This robs characters of dimensionality, being especially taxing on colorful supporting players that end up having only two scenes to develop their shallow stereotypes. In satire, a filmmaker can choose to dig into the stereotypes to an extreme, much like Mel Brooks, but this can also rob a film of its underlying message, being remembered as a conjunction of successful jokes, rather than a wholesome story.
Nevertheless, Bottoms is an incredibly enjoyable and daring comedy. The boldness within its humor along with an exciting array of new talent, invigorates one’s wonder for the Gen-Z filmmaker talent that is starting to arrive on screen.