Hollywood has a long and storied love affair with the high school movie — and for good reason. High school movies are familiar, fun, and can even feel cathartic at times, inviting us to root for characters who may or may not remind us of ourselves in those formative years.
The genre’s latest addition, Emma Seligman’s raunchy teen satire Bottoms, promises to be that and more. Already, The Rolling Stone has hailed it the “horniest, bloodiest high school movie of the 21st century.” And with the brand-new trailer making us fantasize about getting punched in the face by a hot girl, the R-rated lesbian comedy is set to be an instant classic.
So, what’s Bottoms all about? Who’s in it? Is it any good? And more importantly, when can we watch it in theaters? Here’s everything you need to know.
What Is Bottoms About?
A disembodied voice saying, “Could the ugly, untalented gays please report to the principal’s office?” is how the team behind Bottoms chooses to open their trailer, and that pretty much sets the tone for the whole thing and quickly introduces us to PJ and Josie.
In this teen movie, Rachel Sennott (whom you might recognize from Shiva Baby, also directed by Seligman, and last year’s A24 black comedy Bodies, Bodies, Bodies) and Ayo Edebiri (from Hulu’s The Bear) star as two unpopular queer girls in their senior year of high school. In keeping with the tradition of American high school movies, they’re hoping to have sex and lose their virginities before they graduate.
And these ugly, untalented gays are aiming high: They want to shoot their shot with cheerleaders Brittany and Isabel (played by Kaia Gerber and Havana Rose Liu, respectively). How do they do that? By starting a fight club, naturally.
Surprisingly, their plan works. Punches are thrown, noses bleed, and the young women in their club feel empowered and connected to each other in ways they wouldn’t have been without the club. But PJ and Josie soon find themselves in way over their heads.
The movie is a nod to David Fincher’s Fight Club, for sure. But Sennott, who co-wrote the film with Seligman, told Entertainment Weekly that they also took inspiration from classic high school comedies like Wet Hot American Summer and Bring It On, as well as films like Scott Pilgrim, Jennifer’s Body, and Jawbreaker.
The end result is a cross between a campy high school movie and an absurdist action flick that focuses on queer women, whom Sennott felt deserved the spotlight in a teen sex comedy, too. From the trailer, it feels a bit like the dirtier, bloodier, and more insane cousin of Olivia Wilde’s hilariously raunchy Booksmart, and we’re here for it.
Who Is in Bottoms?
We’ve already covered Sennott, who co-wrote the film alongside Seligman while making the latter’s 2020 indie darling Shiva Baby. She stars in the film as PJ alongside Edebiri, who plays Josie. If the pair of them look familiar to you, it might be because they had previously collaborated in Comedy Central’s Ayo and Rachel Are Single, and the vibes are very similar: Take a look for yourself here:
The cheerleaders they’re gunning for are played by Liu and Gerber. Nicholas Galitzine, Succession’s Dagmara Dominczyk, Ruby Cruz, Miles Fowler, Punkie Johnson, and former football player Marshawn Lynch round out the rest of the cast.
Meanwhile, the movie is produced by Elizabeth Banks, Max Handelman, and Alison Small. The husband-and-wife duo of Banks and Handelman are the founders of Brownstone Productions, which was behind 2019’s Charlie’s Angels and 2023’s Cocaine Bear. Most notably, they were also behind the Pitch Perfect movies, which is chock-full of gay subtext and pretty much raised a whole generation of sapphics raring to support a movie where the characters are finally, gloriously allowed to be gay.
It’s also worth mentioning that pop icon and queer ally Charli XCX worked on the film’s inspired electronic score alongside composer Leo Birenberg.
Is Bottoms Any Good?
Bottoms premiered at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival last March 11th and has received critical acclaim since then. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 96% on 24 reviews, praising its humor, characters, and absurdly gay plot.
Writing for The Rolling Stone, David Fear described Bottoms as “nothing less than a Heathers for this generation. It hits you, and it feels like a kiss.” Meanwhile, Variety’s Owen Gleiberman likened it to Jamie Babbit’s WLW classic But I’m a Cheerleader! but maintained that it is “unlike any high-school comedy you’ve ever seen,” with “a teasing humanity that sneaks up on you.”
The shift from 2020’s Shiva Baby, Seligman’s feature debut, to this year’s Bottoms is also something many critics pointed out. Where Gleiberman described Seligman’s sophomore film as “a more confident and audacious piece of work” given its abandonment of realism, The Film Stage’s Jake Kring-Schreifels wrote about how Seligman has “moved from cloistered cringe to lesbian liberation.”
Some critics have predicted that the film will usher in a new era of queer high school comedies, and it helps that Seligman herself is openly bisexual.
Of course, the absurdist reality and bloody fight sequences of Bottoms mean that the film is not going to be for everybody. But it’s still a bold, outrageous, forward-looking piece of cinema that isn’t afraid to punch… hard.
At Bottoms’ debut screening at the SXSW Film Festival, Seligman had described the film succinctly: “It’s gay, it’s bloody, and it’s horny.” And so if you’re into that, then this film is definitely for you.
When Will Bottoms Be Released in Theaters?
The theatrical release date for Bottoms is set for Friday, August 25, 2023. It is distributed by Orion Pictures through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in the United States and by Warner Bros. Pictures internationally.
There’s no official word yet on where the queer high school satire film will stream. But given that it is now an MGM Studio property, Bottoms will likely be streaming on Prime Video as the main platform following Amazon’s acquisition of MGM last year.
The movie has a total run time of 92 minutes.