“All roads lead to Austin”, as writer and director Emma Seligman so neatly confessed to a packed house of 1,250+ at the Paramount Theater, all of whom were eager as hell to catch the world premiere of her second feature film, Bottoms. As she recounted, the acceptance of her 2018 short film, Shiva Baby, spawned a feature length adaptation that was intended to play at the 2020 SXSW festival before COVID struck and shut down the festivities. And although the film never got to premiere in Austin, as it was intended, Seligman’s debut feature went on to win a Spirit Award and a National Board of Review “Top Ten Independent Film” honor en route to propelling the director and her leading star, Rachel Sennott, to immediate stardom. But three years later, history corrects itself as Seligman and Sennott’s latest collaboration finally gets the Austin kickstart they so desperately deserve.
The film follows lifelong best friends PJ (Sennott) and Josie (The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri) as the they embark on their senior year of high school determined to shake off the ugly, lesbian-loser stigma that has plagued their entire teenage lives. But how can they possibly climb out of this social-pariah hole that they’ve dug themselves into and find a way to convince a pair of beautiful cheerleaders that they’ve been crushing on for years to switch teams and make out with them? PJ stumbles upon the answer when she convinces Josie to help her start a women’s self-defense/fight club at their school. Yet, what begins as a colossal gathering of dysfunction eventually evolves into an empowering movement that helps these female misfits be seen and heard.
Bottoms stands as a Fight Club meets Superbad mashup with a rebelliously gay twist. This raunchy teenage comedy pulls no punches, using an onslaught of gut-laughing humor to solidify itself as an instant classic for a new generation. And while there is never a shortage of laughs in Emma Seligman’s sophomoric effort, equally as impressive is the unforgettable onscreen bond of the film’s best friend duo. Sennott and Edebiri each bring their own unique personality to the story, PJ the loose cannon who is more outspoken, and Josie who is more methodical and even-keeled. Their yin and yang behaviors form the foundation to Bottoms’ main friendship storyline that so eloquently elevates the film beyond a just “made-for-laughs” comedic endeavor. Behind this barrage of hilarity is a hearty core that addresses honest themes such as friendship, female empowerment, and community. Make no mistake about it, though, Bottoms is a full-fledged, comedy-first effort that evolves into something much bigger as you peel back its layers.
Sennott, who isn’t just a hysterical onscreen voice, serves as a co-writer on the film as well. Her organic sense for comedy shows itself in a wide variety of ways. As Bottoms navigates the audience through some typical teen comedy tropes that feel more like essentials than rehashed ideas, things like the popular dim-witted jocks and an outrageous teacher (kudos to Marshawn Lynch on his strong and sizable role) to name a few, it also embraces the misfit hero vibe as well. This collection of uniquely different characters come together to not only discover that they can give and take a punch, more importantly they lift each other up and show one another that they're stronger than they ever thought possible. It’s fond moments like these that make Bottoms more than just an excellent comedy, but an excellent all-around movie.