Bottoms Is The Lesbian American Pie We Never Knew We Needed
The traditional American sex film featuring characters trying to get laid before graduation was a staple of late 1900s, and early 2000s cinema, featuring some classics like Not Another Teenage Film (2001), EuroTrip (2004), and the trope namer, American Pie (2001).
Bottoms is this but with horny lesbians, feminism, and campiness.
The plot involves a pair of dorky high school seniors who create a self-defense club for “female solidarity”, which is actually an excuse to hook up with their cheerleader crushes.
Morally questionable teens and sex tropes are played ironically straight, except with lesbians.
And I’m all for that.
In director Emma Seligman’s own words, she wanted to portray horny, flawed, selfish, and hormonal teenagers, who also happen to be queer and female, and the idea of them manipulating feminism to lose their virginities.
Bottoms follows sapphic besties PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Aya Edebiri), a pair of school outcasts, as they’re “gay, ugly, and untalented.”
The leading ladies both had inherent chemistry, possibly due to their long working relationship. Both Edebiri and Sennott have been working on projects since they were students at New York University.
They also happen to be attracted to cheerleaders Brittany (Kaia Gerber) and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), apex predators of the American high school social food chain that couldn’t be further out of their reach.
But an after-school women’s self-defense training proves to be the perfect excuse to get close to the cheerleaders and start making their moves. Josie’s motivated to get Isabel’s attention by diverting them away from her football-player (of course) boyfriend, played by none other than Red, White & Royal Blue’s own Nicholas Galitzine.
Of note, Havana Rose Liu is an actual queer actress, as is Ruby Cruz, who plays Hazel Callahan.
While we have Heartstopper and Red, White & Royal Blue to occupy two niches of the traditional rom-com, using LGBT+ characters, there are no examples of raunchy comedies featuring LGBT+ characters.
Why shouldn’t queer people have their equivalent of the teenager must-get-laid-before-graduation comedy?
That’s a partial motivation of Sennott and Seligman, writing themselves into what they probably enjoyed watching while growing up, but never really felt identified by.
At times, Bottoms strays away a little from this relatively sober formula and veers more into Ryan-Murphy-esque high school campiness, best exemplified by scenes featuring a football team backdropped by a parody mural of the Creation of Adam, or rival schools trying to murder other players.
All in all, Bottoms is an enjoyable film. The fight scenes were surprisingly bloody for what amounts to an otherwise violence-free genre. Seligman confirmed that the cast went through a stunt boot camp before shooting.
The movie challenges how queer people are expected to behave on screen, and is most of all focused on playing traditional American comedy tropes straight, but with a surprisingly modern twist to better adjust to current sensibilities.As for where to watch it, Bottoms was released theatrically in the United States on August 25, 2023, and expanded to additional screens on September 1, 2023. It will be internationally available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.