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The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

“Bottoms” is a slew of contradictions creating a weird but wonderful masterpiece

Featuring pineapples, high school romance and murder, “Bottoms”, directed by Emma Seligman, was one of the top films released this summer of 2023.

Coming-of-age films have historically been divided into two categories: the ultra feminine, sparkle-covered archetypal “sleepover movie,” and the edgy, rebel-without-a-cause-esque boyhood film about sports and dead dogs. “Bottoms” mixes the qualities of both like it’s a simmering stew, creating the most awful film I’ve watched all summer and also the greatest.

Released on Aug. 25 and directed by Emma Seligman, “Bottoms” combines the unreal feeling of bygone childhood summers and the loose logic of a literal fever dream. If you’re looking for something to turn your brain off and laugh at, you’re definitely in the right place. But if you’re looking for a witty satire that you’d want to rewatch over and over, you might only be partially fulfilled.

The film starts off with best friends PJ (Rachel Sennot) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) entering their senior year. After being tormented for all of high school for being “ugly, untalented gays,” PJ decides to take drastic action, wheedling Josie into starting a fight club with her to attract the attention of their hot, popular cheerleader crushes; Isabelle (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittney (Kaia Gerber). Unfortunately for them, Isabelle is dating Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine), the school’s darling, all-American quarterback. Due to a number of reasons, including a hit-and-run, Jeff despises PJ and Josie, setting the film up for a classic conflict between nerd v. jock. Or does it?

Most of the film can be summarized as a modern twist on classic ‘80s to 2000s movie tropes, including the violence. “Bottoms” is a film that asks the question, “how much violence can we get away with in a film without making it a thriller?” And the answer is quite a lot, though not enough to warrant a whole section of a review by itself. Rather, it’s the blasé ways the characters react that bothers me. Unlike how older films glorified violence by making it seem cool, “Bottoms” makes it seem fun and quirky. The character Hazel (Ruby Cruz) has an obsession with making/setting off bombs that can only be rivaled by JD from “Heathers.” Unlike “Heathers,” however, which packs a punch with its social criticisms, “Bottoms” just feels tone deaf, stripped of the context that would make it a successful satire.

But something doesn’t need to be good to be enjoyable, and despite my doubts, I found myself genuinely immersed and wholeheartedly rooting for Josie and Isabelle’s romance by the middle of the film. Sure, they both have a plethora of red flags (cheating, lying, assault, murdering rival football players to save Jeff and maybe a hit-and-run?), but it’s not like anyone pays attention to red flags anymore, so I’m willing to overlook it.

What I love the most about the film is the costuming. One detail that I couldn’t stop thinking about was how Jeff and his minions only ever wear their football uniforms. Yes, including the weird little football pants with the padding. In most films, it’s a good cinematic shortcut to symbolize “athlete,” though it makes the characters appear very one-dimensional. “Bottoms” makes it purposeful and says, “yes, these guys are one-dimensional. Yes, we did that on purpose.” I always love a good meta-film and this is a delightfully fresh and lighthearted approach that’s not at all pretentious.

While it fails in its satire department, “Bottoms” does pay homage to bawdy teen flicks of the past in a very healthy and savvy way. It tackles more “mature” topics in a surprisingly enlightened way- who knew that a film that ran through gallons of fake blood somehow handles relationships and communication better than most of my friends? Despite lying to Isabelle about going to juvie and killing a person, and then later actually killing a person, Josie delivers Isabelle an actual apology at the end, taking accountability and detailing what she did wrong, which most YouTubers and teens alike can’t do.

Perhaps the best way to describe it is “camp.” It’s on the cusp of cult classic and box office bomb, but simultaneously transcends both categories. It’s good because it’s bad, over the top, cringy and kitschy, and that’s what makes “Bottoms” worth a watch.

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