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I hated, hated, hated this 2023 movie that everyone else loved. Here’s why

5 football players sit at a table in Bottoms.

It’s not a stretch to say that 2023 was a pretty great year for movies. Between successes like Oppenheimer and Barbie, acclaimed darlings like Poor Things and Anatomy of a Fall, and unexpected hits like Godzilla Minus One and Anyone but You, the film industry thrived last year. However, as usually happens, more than a few films earned far more acclaim than they should have, at least in this writer’s opinion. I’ve written already about my dislike for Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, but that was a divisive film that had far more detractors than just me. On the contrary, Emma Seligman’s teen comedy Bottoms received near-universal acclaim, and I can’t, for the life of me, understand why.

Bottoms isn’t necessarily bad, strictly speaking; it’s not a true abomination like, say, Ghosted or The Flash. However, it’s also not the teen triumph it was anointed to be by most critics and the internet. Instead, it’s a rather average movie that is not nearly as subversive or clever as it pretends to be. In fact, compared to other entries in the raunchy teen genre, it’s painfully mediocre, and the more praise it got, the more I disliked it. And while “hate” might be a strong word, especially when talking about a movie, it’s a pretty succinct, if slightly exaggerated, way to describe my feelings towards Bottoms.

What is it exactly that we’re looking at here?

PJ, Josie, and another girl looking directly at the camera with confused expressions in Bottoms.

Bottoms follows two high school seniors, PJ (Rachel Senott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri). They’re unpopular, lesbians, virgins, and desperate not to be. They have crushes on two popular cheerleaders, Brittany (Kaia Gerber) and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), but their existence goes unnoticed by the beautiful girls. While attending a local fair, Isabel seeks refuge in Josie’s car while in a fight with her dim-witted quarterback boyfriend Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine). When Josie attempts to drive away, she softly bumps Jeff’s knees with the car, sending him into an exaggerated tirade where he fakes a more severe injury that leads to him using crutches. Threatened to be expelled, Josie and PJ pretend Jeff’s injury was caused during practice for a “female fight club,” which they begin to both save themselves and attempt to hook up with the popular girls who join.

The premise itself is nothing out of the ordinary; if anything, it has a few things going for it. Like most other mediocre movies, it’s the execution where Bottoms fails. For starters, no one in this movie looks like an actual high schooler. True, this is a symptom of Hollywood itself, but it’s especially distracting in Bottoms, a movie whose entire premise revolves around horny teenage girls doing their utmost to control their out-of-control hormones. But when the two protagonists look like Gender Studies majors straight out of NYU rather than fresh-faced teens who can barely contain their horniness, how can we possibly buy it? The same issue applies to every other “teen” in the cast, especially Galitzine, who, weeks before Bottoms premiered, was playing a British prince in his mid-20s far more convincingly.

A football player points in Bottoms.

My one major issue with Bottoms is how subversive it tries to be while sticking to the same formulaic approach of your average teen movie. Don’t get me wrong, Bottoms is quite violent, but even its gore is uninspired, bloody in a way we’ve seen countless times before, from Kick-Ass to the constant slasher movies that come out every year. Its depiction of queerness is also remarkably lazy; it’s fun to show teen girls being horny, especially since it’s so rare for movies to actually go there. However, the film tries very hard to avoid any gray areas with its two protagonists, to the point where they come across as stereotypes rather than fully fleshed-out characters.

And what a shame because Sennott and Edebiri are game in this movie, and I’m sure they would’ve loved to have explored PJ and Josie’s darker sides. But Bottoms isn’t concerned with that; it wants to be funny and daring while remaining digestible enough to have mass appeal. So what’s the point? If you look at the truly subversive entries in queer cinema — from Pink Flamingos to But I’m a Cheerleader, a film Bottoms shamelessly tries to emulate, failing every step of the way — there’s actual courage behind them. They don’t want to please; they want to discomfort and provoke.

Where’s that energy in Bottoms? Its idea of “shock” is rooted in painfully 2000s notions of what the word means: blood! Teen sex with adults! Girls being overtly horny! It’s all so boring; this entire movie was advertised as the antithesis of boring, and this is the best it can do, really? It’s a true “we must alert the church elders” moment because of how run-of-the-mill and unimaginative it all is.

Is this supposed to be funny?

Brittany, Isabel, and Hazel walking down the cafeteria in Bottoms.

My other major issue with Bottoms is simple: it’s not funny. It tries to be funny, desperately so, but it fails because of its so-so screenplay. Every joke is painfully obvious, and the film announces it before the actor has even delivered it. The female fight club, seemingly the plot’s main gimmick, is underused, underdeveloped, and far less inventive than it should be. It’s there for a few lazy sequences, many of which seem straight out of an SNL skit from the 2000s when they should’ve seemed straight out of a MadTV sketch from the 2000s.

The comedy in Bottoms feels calculated, someone’s painfully literal idea of what it means to be “provocative” while still trying to be accessible. It’s no surprise that the film’s funniest and most viral moment was improvised by Edebiri: her chaotic, desperate ramble feels genuine and natural, something sorely missing from the rest of the film.

Bottoms took quite a while to premiere in Mexico, where I live. For weeks, all I read on social media was how this film was raunchy, liberated, and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Imagine my surprise when I finally watched it and found an unfunny and rather safe teen rom-com whose entire shtick seemed to be “Superbad, but with lesbians.” Audiences overhyping a movie has been the downfall of one too many projects — I’ve also written about my disappointment with Raiders of the Lost Ark, a movie often treated as the second coming, but that I found boring at best and exasperating at worst.

Josie and PJ at the gym looking confused in Bottoms.

It doesn’t help that every review nowadays seems reactionary and excruciatingly extremist — the words “masterpiece,” “classic,” and “triumph” are overused, especially on social media. I’m certain I’m not the only person to read about how a movie is the best entry into whatever genre it happens to belong to, only to discover it’s a solid ,yet hardly groundbreaking cinematic effort.

Bottoms suffered from this fate; reviews out of South by Southwest paid it every compliment in the book and anointed it as a modern classic before it even had a release date- Yet, these frankly overblown reviews hardly do a movie any good — if anything, it’s the opposite. We should learn to appreciate movies for what they are rather than trying to make them what we want them to be.

Bottoms, indeed

The cast of Bottoms.

In my article about Saltburn, I wrote about how I found it ridiculously desperate, and that’s exactly what I think of Bottoms. Much like its protagonists, Bottoms is desperate to be popular, to sit with the cool kids of the teen genre and boldly announce that queer comedies now have a seat on the table. But its queerness is conventional and hardly interesting, more a marketing tool rather than a thematic pillar. If the movie’s sole claim to classic status is “we need more queer movies there,” then its approach has been flawed since its inception.

Ironically, Bottoms‘ willingness to compromise makes it unlikely to grow into a true cult classic. Its placid approach seems uninteresting, especially in hindsight, and embarrassingly tame next to works like Rocky Horror or even something like Jennifer’s Body. At the end of the day, and unlike what has been said, Bottoms is not surprising or refreshing, and it’s certainly not funny. It’s silly and awkward, although not half as much as Seligman and Sennott’s previous collaboration, the actually interesting and clever Shiva Baby. And the sad part is it absolutely could’ve been everything it believes itself to be if only it had actually tried.

BOTTOMS | Marshawn Lynch as Mr. G - Restricted Clip

Alas, much like countless other teen comedies before it, Bottoms settled for doing the bare minimum and is thus bound to suffer the same fate they have, descending into the depths of some streaming service, hoping to be seen by some unsuspecting soul trying to fill the void on a boring Friday night. They’re better off watching Heathers or Jennifer’s Body again.

Bottoms is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and MGM+.

David Caballero
David is a Mexican freelance writer with a deep appreciation for words. After three years in the cold world of Marketing…
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