For those who might have tuned in to The Cosmic Circle recently, some other writers and I got together to discuss LGBTQ+ representation in film and television. Over the course of over an hour, we spoke on where Queer representation began for us and the landscape it stands at currently. We discussed recent projects, such as Interview With The Vampire, Red, White & Royal Blue, as well as Heartstopper. But unfortunately, at the time of recording, none of us had seen Bottoms, a new Queer-centric comedy that came out the same weekend.
That’s a shame because Bottoms, directed by Emma Seligman and co-written by her and star Rachel Sennott, fit the topic and energy of our entire conversation. Bottoms also stars Ayo Edebiri, Ruby Cruz, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, and surprisingly Marshawn Lynch. Bottoms is another recent piece of Queer media that shows just how far representation has come, even though it highlights that we still have a long journey ahead of us to be seen. So is this crude, rude, and hilarious movie right for you? Continue on for my thoughts on why Bottoms should be on your list to watch.
[Warning: Spoilers from Bottoms are below!]
gay way in high school
Bottoms opens up as two best friends, who both happen to be sex-deprived lesbians, decide that this school year is going to be different for them. On one side of the friendship, we have PJ (Sennott) who is unabashedly open about who she is and her desire to sleep with her crush, Brittany (Gerber). She is over the top and crude, using every swear word in the book to express her wants and needs.
PJ is fundamentally different from her friend Josie (Edebiri) in every possible way. Where PJ is loud and verbose, Josie is quiet and shy. While she shares many of the same thoughts and feelings as her best friend, she would rather fly under the radar than be seen. Sure, she’s crushing hard on cheerleader Isabel (Liu), but she’d rather say nothing and just make it through the year unscathed.
It’s not a huge shock this friendship developed, as we tend to see someone who is louder and more outgoing surrounded by others who go along with what they say. The same dynamic is seen in Isabel and her quiet follower Brittany. That being said, these two duos are absolutely nothing alike, as PJ and Josie are outcasts, and Isabel and Brittany are popular cheerleaders. Ultimately, the worlds of all these girls don’t easily mix, and if the water and oil of high school weren’t bad enough, there’s also the factor of Isabel’s boyfriend, Jeff (Galitzine).
Jeff is the all-star quarterback of the football team and a giant douche. Think of all the worst possible stereotypes for the high school jock and Jeff is that times ten. He’s continuously cheating on his girlfriend and treating those he deems unsavory absolutely horrid. He and his football compatriots rule the roost, but they meet their match in the form of PJ, Josie, and a beat-up old car.
Turning tides in Bottoms
At the State Fair, after an awkward as-hell interaction between PJ, Josie, and their crushes, the girls are preparing to leave. Sitting in the car utterly dejected, an annoyed Isabel staggers by their car, clearly upset by the actions of Jeff. Offering her a ride, the friends find themselves facing Jeff, who’s pissed off more than a child who can’t have candy before dinner. After an argument, Jeff is tapped by Josie’s car, an event that completely changes the trajectory of these two girls’ school year.
Rumors begin to spiral about PJ and Josie, rumors that they decide to take advantage of. Perhaps if people believe that they not only beat up Jeff but spent the summer in juvenile detention, then they’ll no longer be seen as losers. Together, with PJ leading the charge, the two girls decide to start a self-defense club, to bring themselves closer to their crushes.
What spirals out of it is some weird fight club in the gymnasium, with a small but quickly growing group of girls. The desire of the rest of the girls in the group is to learn how to defend themselves. However, eventually, the group becomes a close-knit sisterhood, bonded together through shared trauma. Everyone in the group has felt like an outcast at some point or another, even Isabel and Brittany who join later on down the line.
The group’s bond and the notoriety begin to threaten the chokehold that the football team has on the school. Factor in some of Jeff’s behaviors coming to light, and the vengeance Isabel and the group experience, and it’s hard to imagine that this group won’t end up in trouble. What exactly transpires? Will PJ and Josie kiss their respective crushes? You know the drill by now, you’ll have to go see Bottoms to see how this film brings all these narratives to a satisfying conclusion.
The positives and negatives of Bottoms
Personally, there was so much to love about Bottoms I don’t know where to begin. The film itself is what some would classify as a stupid comedy. That means that it contains plenty of low-ball humor that isn’t for everyone. This of Superbad, which was the height of low-ball humor back in 2007. That being said, the humor itself, at least in my opinion, is more sophisticated than Superbad, containing layers that the older film didn’t contain.
You can tell that Seligman and Sennott spent the time to care for these characters, fostering them into well-rounded multi-dimensional people, instead of the flat and one-dimensional characters typically seen in comedy films. Each and every character was incredibly nuanced, even characters like Jeff and Mr. G (Lynch), who were in the film to serve one purpose.
Along with praise for the writing, both Sennott and Edebiri deserve recognition as well. Both of these main stars of Bottoms put a ton of heart and soul into their characters. I couldn’t get over how relatable both PJ and Josie were, even when they were at extremes with their behaviors and words. I don’t remember swearing nearly as much as PJ or lying about something as severe as going to Juvenile detention, but I could understand their motives because I’ve been in their shoes before.
No, that’s not me admitting to being a horny teenager, although we’ve all been there, but more so that we’ve all felt lonely enough to feel the need to be something that we’re not. Again, their lies are heavily exaggerated, but that’s to be expected from a comedy film. At the core, these characters are highly relatable, or in the case of people like Jeff, we knew someone that was similar to him and his cronies.
The supporting cast was also fantastic, especially Ruby Cruz as Hazel and Nicholas Galitzine as Jeff. Hazel is one of those characters who walks the line nicely between wanting to be accepted by those around her and drawing some firm lines in the sand to stop herself from being walked all over. I felt myself pulled towards that character throughout the movie, seeing myself in her more so than some of the others in the film.
Of course, those who have been following along to my recent Queer awakening here at The Cosmic Circus know my heart knows no bounds for Nicholas Galitzine after his portrayal as Prince Henry in Red, White & Royal Blue. He’s truly a wonderful actor who shows his range going from the regal prince of England to the all-American football bro, who is the biggest ass of all. The about-face is so completely unexpected and yet made me respect Galitzine’s craft so much more. I may have fallen in love with Henry, but there’s nothing I despise more than Jeff. Also, Jeff is hilarious with how stupid he is, which adds even more comedic relief to an already hilarious movie.
Something else I loved about this film is how Queer-coded the majority of the characters are. Of course, there are the obvious; PJ, Josie, and Hazel are all blatantly written as lesbians. These characters’ Queer-ness is the center of their narratives in Bottoms. However, it is not their only defining characteristic, that elevates them to the multi-dimensional characters I mentioned above.
But these aren’t the only characters that exhibit queerness in some form or another. Even the straight ones, such as Brittany and Jeff, have aspects about them that scream gay, even though they are straight. Part of that is for comedic effects, such as Jeff and his mannerisms that are more Barbie doll than jock bro. But it works well in Bottoms to show how life isn’t always on the binary, but full of shades of gray in which people exist.
As I stated above, this film is raunchy. Almost every other word out of these characters’ mouths is some form of swear word or insult. There are more mentions or jokes about sex than I can count on all my fingers and toes. Even towards the end, there are some scenes added for shock value, which contain quite a bit of blood. I wasn’t expecting those and had to close my eyes at one scene in particular. That being said, this film might not appeal to everyone. Although I did go see this film with my mother and a teenager, both of whom enjoyed it in different capacities.
The film has something weird going on with the time frame in which the film takes place. It’s unclear when the film actually takes place, nor is it really important to the film. That being said, there are references to time, specifically in one scene, with one character mentioning attacks in the early 2000’s. The vehicles in the film look from the 90’s, along with the clothing styles people are wearing. Some are using Motorola Razor phones and phone books, however, in some scenes there are style cups that didn’t come into existence until 2014.
These small details might not have been caught by anyone else, because again it’s not important to the overall story. But to me, it stuck out like a sore thumb and it’s all I could think about at times.
Will you check out Bottoms in theaters soon?
Overall, I thought Bottoms was exactly the Queer comedy people in the LGBTQ+ community need. It’s funny, emotional, odd as all hell, and another film to normalize the gay experience. So if you are looking for a film that will make you laugh and features some well-written characters, then Bottoms should be at the top of your list.
My rating for this film
Bottoms is currently in theaters. Will you be checking this film out soon? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.