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Bottoms SXSW Review: A Wild, Idiosyncratic Coming-of-Age Comedy

Bottoms Cover

Emma Seligman’s feature debut, Shiva Baby, was pretty successful on the indie circuit, and her sophomore film, Bottoms, is made at an even bigger scale. It’s one of the weirdest, most audacious studio comedies in recent memory, and while it may be too off-kilter for some, audiences who are willing to embrace its bandwidth of unique humor are in for an absolute treat.

In the movie, two unpopular queer teenagers start a fight club with the goal of attracting their crushes in the hopes of getting the opportunity to hook up with them. It sounds like the premise to a pretty crazy high school sex comedy, but it’s even weirder than anyone could have ever possibly imagined.

The film’s humor is very very weird, almost to the point of feeling random. However, its eccentricity and idiosyncrasy is what makes it work so well. There are some jokes that don’t land as well as others, but the laughs come so fast and hard that it’s not long after a bad joke that another, better one is made.

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One of the things that makes the movie so funny is its unique visual style. The film is extremely bright and colorful in a way that is reminiscent of classic teen comedies, but there’s definitely an edge of cynicism to be found here that those movies generally lack. Seligman also has an extraordinary grasp of visual comedy, as some of the visual gags throughout will have viewers rolling in their seats.

There are definitely some very interesting feminist themes explored throughout. However, what is impressive is that the script doesn’t talk about them in a preachy way, instead using some killer one-liners to offer stark observations about our society. It’s truly funny and feels incredibly natural at the same time. 

The only distracting shortcoming of the film is that its character development is somewhat conventional. It’s clear from the beginning where these characters’ arcs are going, and it falls victim to a few of the common melodramatic beats. That being said, the comedy and style are so unconventional that the movie still feels refreshing.

The acting all-around is quite good. Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri are both very good in their roles and create a fully believable friend dynamic. And in the supporting cast, there are hilarious turns from Nicholas Galitzine and Marshawn Lynch. Lynch’s role is particularly surprising, as he gets a few moments in which he absolutely brings the house down.

It will be hard to find a comedy that’s funnier or more unique than Bottoms this year. Although the film isn’t perfect from a dramatic standpoint, there are so many amazing jokes in it that the ninety-minute runtime will absolutely fly by.

Bottoms is screening at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 10-18 in Austin, TX.

Rating: 8/10

Like a Dragon: Ishin

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Written by Sean Boelman

Film Critic and member of the CACF.