Bottoms Does Serious Scenes Better Than Humor

Bottoms film of PJ (Rachel Sennott), Josie (Ayo Edebiri), Sylvie (Summer Rose Campbell), Annie (Zamani Wilder), Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), and Brittany (Kaia Gerber) standing together.

Bottoms nails overblown physical hijinks, but is a primarily flat, awkward satire that fails to be memorable for the right reasons.

I rarely review a film after its release. However, because of the praise I saw in reviews and on social media about Bottoms, I wanted to watch. I felt excitement along with nervousness since overhyping films can lead to disappointment. The movie is a less graphic Porky’s meets Fight Club. While there are enjoyable aspects, the way it handles some trauma looms uncomfortably over the film. One particular moment might stick around longer in the audience’s minds than the comedy. While Bottoms has raunchy and raucous white lesbian humor, any aspect outside deviates to a cliche, invisible, or worse, a punchline. 

Written by Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott while Emma Seligman directs, it follows friends PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri). They are on a mission, or at least PJ is, to hook up with girls. But as the “untalented gays” in school, that’s easier said than done. So, through a series of mishaps, they tell the principal they want to form a club for girls. They convince their teacher, Mr. G (Marshawn Lynch), to help them. But their aim is their crushes, not girl power. 

Comedy in Bottoms is a Mishmash of Hit and Miss

Bottoms lives in that awkward comedic realm. But it does not thrive there. Most wit is a ‘huh’ rather than a belly-rolling howl. The timing and dialogue miss the beats to nail laughter. However, physical action delivers plenty of laughs as the movie doesn’t pull punches. Girls learn to fight through pummeling each other, and it’s hilarious to watch. The film doesn’t go for the girls pulling each other’s hair. The film has broken noses, bloody lips, and bruised faces. It’s a surprisingly bloody flick. Who knew punching each other could be so empowering? 

Bottoms still of Josie (Ayo Edibiri) and PJ (Rachel Sennott).
Bottoms still. Courtesy of Orion Pictures.

There are bright moments, but it is rarely funny. The acting during serious scenes in Bottoms works. One is when they discuss assault and ask girls to raise their hands if they experienced the “grey area,” and almost every girl’s hand goes up. That small moment stands out because many girls and women experience that but feel awkward even calling it assault. Ayo Edebiri is brilliant. Given her performance on The Bear, it’s obvious she knows how to do awkward comedy. It’s the writing. It does not even evoke a “what the hell” laugh, just confusion. Rachel Sennott’s PJ doesn’t nail the comedy, but her performance aside from that works. 

Black Girl Existing For Trauma Joke Then Vanishing

Assault is no laughing matter for girls, but assault for Black girls is even worse. It’s not only how the movie plays Crystal’s (IMDb does not list the actress’s name) horror for amusement in the film. Crystal is part of the club. PJ mentions how the club could prevent Crystal’s yearly assault on her birthday, and that’s all audiences know or hear about Crystal.

People disregard her trauma, and she winds up invisible through most of the picture. She is nowhere to be found in the epic wide shot of all the girls squaring up against the football players. It’s common to see Black girls’ trauma trivialized, a joke that makes up their whole identity, but seeing it in film now is grating and infuriating. 

Just think of the responses on social media and articles about Megan Thee Stallion. Everyone ridiculed her, crafting jokes while becoming expert doctors and lawyers, breaking down how they believed she lied. A situation that only got worse when she finally spoke up about Tory Lanez shooting her. How is Bottoms doing anything different when it plays into what every other movie—and society—does when it comes to the harm of Black girls and women? 

Bottoms still of PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri).
Bottoms still. Courtesy of Orion Pictures.

To Each Their Own

For a film like Five Nights at Freddy’s that many critics didn’t love, they will assert the bar is in hell. But at least that film entertained without using a Black girl’s trauma as a joke and making it the girl’s sole identity. Since the humor in Bottoms doesn’t land, that moment in the film affects the rest of it. I’m not sure which is worse, having a movie with no Black characters or having one where Black characters feel more like cliches and punchlines.

Even with an unforgettable Black lead like Ayo Edebiri, whose humor makes the movie bearable, it’s impossible to get past its failings. Bottoms nails overblown physical hijinks, but is a primarily flat, awkward satire that fails to be memorable for the right reasons. I can turn on the news or flick through social media to see this. 

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