Movie review: Raunchy 'Bottoms' is funny, empowering

Rachel Sennott (L) and Ayo Adebiri star in "Bottoms." Photo courtesy of ORION Pictures Inc.
1 of 5 | Rachel Sennott (L) and Ayo Adebiri star in "Bottoms." Photo courtesy of ORION Pictures Inc.

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Female-centric raunchy teen comedies like Booksmart and Joy Ride have fortunately become more common. So Bottoms, in theaters Friday, already has to raise the shock value stakes, and the film acquits itself swimmingly.

PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Adebiri) are unpopular high school girls. After they get into a fight with football jock Jeff (Nicholas Galitizne), rumors spread fast that they are tough girls who learned to fight in juvenile hall.


To avoid expulsion for fighting in school, the girls propose a self-defense club to their principal (Wayne Pére). The club quickly becomes known as their fight club, but it helps bond the school's girls and does some good.

Director Emma Seligman, who co-wrote Bottoms with Sennott, strikes a satirical tone that's evident from the establishing scenes. Social subtexts become overt to an absurd degree.


Every generation of high schoolers deals with rumors, but making them blatantly spread within minutes is funny. Everyone gets judged by their looks or relegated to cliques, but Bottoms treats these phenomena like official positions.

What's not satirical is the sincere portrayal of Josie and PJ as gay teens. They are endearing, pining after the popular cheerleaders on whom they have crushes.

Feeling like the losers of high school is not limited to boys or straight women. Everybody feels like the loser in high school -- or at least, the ones who were popular don't go see high school comedies or don't mind always being the villain in movies that cater to the underdog.

A high school fight club is a pretty outrageous premise, and Seligman establishes the premise quickly and efficiently so that Bottoms can get on with the comedy. Just picture Fight Club in a high school gym and that takes care of half the comedy.

Fighting is effective physical comedy, with just enough excessive blood to be comical and not disturbing. Eventually, the girls have to fight for real, and those fights are thrilling with strong choreography.

Along with the violence, Bottoms features plenty of R-rated language, but it's so childlike that it's more absurd than edgy. The girls use profanity to sound mature and only reveal how immature they still are.


Each of the girls has a different agenda for joining the club. PJ hopes to score with other fight club members and Josie really does believe in empowerment. Hazel (Ruby Cruz) is just out to beat their rival school.

Cheerleaders Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber) are tired of being treated like arm candy for jocks. They want to have their own thing.

Many of the girls deal with dark issues like suicide, stalkers and abusive step parents. Again, Seligman handles the tone so that Bottoms isn't making fun of these issues, but can have fun with young people indelicately discussing severe trauma.

Bottoms shows it's possible to do comedy without pretending real-life violence doesn't exist. It also has fun with notions of feminism and empowerment.

Romance does bloom between characters. That, too, is a sincere aspect of the story. Some classmates consummate the crush, but others are still straight, and Bottoms shows both are OK.

Bottoms is a fun back-to-school comedy. With its unique approach to high school, it easily could become a cultural touchstone like Breakfast Club, Clueless or Superbad.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.


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