Suspending Disbelief and Embracing Camp in the Instant Queer Classic Bottoms

Anna Peterson ’25
Staff Writer

Following the explosive hype around this summer’s Barbenheimer, I was apprehensive to enter the back-to-school season with a new collection of films to review. How could movies like Saw X and PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie live up to the cinematic excellence achieved just two months prior? It seemed nearly impossible.

However, my fear was relieved and my dreams of movie magic were revived with Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott’s Bottoms. Taking place in a wacky and otherworldly caricature of high school, lesbian besties PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) concoct a plan to create a “fight club” to win over their unattainable crushes Isabelle (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber).

As the film progresses, the club transforms into a safe space for many of the girls at the school to forge friendships and bond with one another. But, things take a turn for the worse when the club interferes with the school’s football team. Quarterback Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine) and his right-hand man Tim (Miles Fowler) make it their mission to shut the club down for good.

With due warning, I’ll admit that this movie is over-the-top. But, I think that’s what makes it so good. It fully embraces its exaggerated nature and never retreats. The film doesn’t compromise its campy nature with more “serious” scenes to appeal to critical acceptance within the academy.

This campiness is amplified by the actors’ utilization of physical comedy. More specifically, Galitzine and Fowler collaborate well to produce large emotional reactions that poke fun at the stereotypes associated with high school jocks and sports culture.

Bottoms also taps into the phenomenon of suspending the audience’s belief. Throughout the film, there are bombs, excessive fight scenes, discussions of juvenile detention, and football members who never remove their uniforms. In this way, the movie invites viewers to join in and laugh along with the chaos.

Beyond these aspects, I must also applaud the film for its spectacular cinematography. In the final fight scene, the camera follows the girls as they pummel football players into the field, immersing the audience in the visceral gore.

Furthermore, they employ techniques like slow motions to engage the viewer. At the end of the movie, PJ delivers her final punch to one of the Huntington football players in an extended slow-motion sequence, with blood splattering across the screen. This technique was crucial in captivating the audience’s attention towards the film’s theatrical essence and creating an unforgettable conclusion.

While Bottoms proves successful on many fronts, it does have its shortcomings. Unfortunately, I think the movie heavily relied on Gen-Z and social media humor. For a lot of members in the audience, it was difficult to connect with some of the comedic elements of this film as it felt unfamiliar. I also think that these jokes may not hold up in future watches and quickly become outdated.

In addition, some of the bits played out by Senott and Edebiri became elongated and even awkward at some points. During the opening of the film, Edebiri delivered a monologue that, while comedic, stretched on for over a minute in the silent theater. The nuanced Gen-Z humor that Edebiri uses seemed less apparent and effective to the audience.

Bottoms delivers a wild and unapologetically exaggerated take on high school life and queerness, where its absurdity is part of its charm. While it may not resonate equally with all audiences, its unique blend of humor and audacious storytelling makes it a standout film in the comedy genre. If you’ve ever wanted to indulge in a hilariously dramatic and unabashed film, then Bottoms might be for you!

Image Source: Patti Perret