Bottoms (2023) Movie Review: Good teen sex comedies tend to resonate with contemporary cultural currents and become inseparable from the grammar of how teenagers interact. They’re strictly the products of their own time. Great teen sex comedies, on the other hand, permeate the culture and become appealing even to subsequent generations. Underneath the layers of adolescent horniness and comedic absurdity, these films reveal a harder truth about the curious interplay of how we perceive gender and how society interacts with the same. That’s precisely what makes it difficult to predict whether a film of such a genre would go on to become a cult classic. After all, what we perceive as a moment of cultural intersection is always subject to change.

After collaborating on the anxiety-inducing feverish debut film, “Shiva Baby,” the creative duo of actor Rachel Sennot and director Emma Seligman return this year with “Bottoms.” It’s less contained, bigger, and surprisingly even more outlandish with its jokes. In fact, it may as well be the best R-rated satire of the year. The raunchy comedy follows the story of Josie (Ayo Edebiri) and PJ (Sennot) – two “ugly and untalented” friends who create a self-defense fight club in order to attract the far more popular and beautiful cheerleader princesses away from their ditsy football boyfriends. Fortuitously, they end up fostering a safe space for female outcasts – a place where girls speak about their experiences and channel their insecurities to save their high school’s football team.

While borrowing from benchmark films such as “Heathers,” “10 Things I Hate About You”, “American Pie,” and “Bring It On, “the movie gives room for the queer lexicon to take center stage. It deflects the historically heterosexual genre conventions while retaining all the pinnacle moments iconic to the teen sex comedy. There’s the giddy first interaction, the nervousness surrounding the first date and the first kiss, all while amazingly (and appropriately) featuring actual queer characters.

Refreshingly, it’s not all done for the sake of virtue signaling since, as the layers of pressing angst unveil itself, the movie explores the polarizing nature of gender politics. But it presents the same extremely matter-of-factly through a heightened world where figures of authority are relegated to positions of powerlessness.

Bottoms (2023) Movie Review
Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri in Bottoms (2023)

The film seems to resonate so strongly with the audience because Seligman goes beyond just creating a story for the sake of representation. I wonder what pitch she had given to all the actors across the board because it’s astounding to see a movie where almost everyone operates on the same frequency. It allows the satire to flow even amidst changing tones; there are car explosions, a mascot penis, and loud punches to the face – all of which seem completely in sync with the film’s intent. The visuals buzz with a fervent creative intensity that infuses zippy, light-on-its-feet energy without ever restricting the ludicrous story from progressing.

The pairing of the two leads gives a sort of instinctive impression of their shared friendship. Their comradery balances off the larger mess of PJ with the more contained mess of Josie, all while silently providing a new spin on the hetero-teen comedies we’ve all grown up watching. The space they share within the heightened rules of their high school is elevated to such a ludicrous level that you commit to learning more about their world as you watch the film.

While the guys get to show their aggressiveness in their sport, the girls do the same behind closed doors by forming their own echo chambers. It’s the sort of satirical feminism that most films get wrong by downright restoring to blatant didacticism (ahem, ahem, “Barbie” and “Booksmart”). Ultimately, when the girls finally get their moment to shine, it feels all the more rewarding because it’s all well-earned.

Props also to the movie’s production designer, Nate Jones, who fuses the sets with aesthetics that at once feel modern and from a different generation. There’s no concrete indication of the year the story unfolds – there’s a fusion of both millennial and Genz appeal, which echoes in the film’s soundtrack (brownie points for that one absolutely bonkers needle-drop). The result is a world that feels both foreign and familiar. Yet the film constantly feels in conversation with contemporary culture, especially with dialogues that feel instantly quotable.

By heightening its own altered reality, “Bottoms” makes it easier to accept the film’s committed premise even when it’s all consistently ridiculous. The raucous comedy never punctures the thoughtfully exaggerated underlying critique of the film. It’s all deceptively kept super accessible and within a crisp runtime while miraculously maintaining the satirical edge. It makes for one of the year’s best comedies, probably one that will prove to be a generational classic.

Read More: The 15 Best LGBTQIA+ Movies of 2022

Bottoms (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
Bottoms (2023) Movie Cast: Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri, Ruby Cruz, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, Miles Fowler, Dagmara Domińczyk, Marshawn Lynch
Bottoms (2023) Movie Genre: Comedy/Lgbtq+, Runtime: 1h 28m
Where to watch Bottoms

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