Photo credits: ORION Pictures Inc.
Most queer films end in tragedy, so finding one that doesn’t is pretty difficult. Think of some of the most popular queer movies. What comes to mind? “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) or perhaps even “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (2019)? Maybe, if you’re feeling hopeful, “Love, Simon” (2018)? Other than the latter, these films do not have happy endings, and it’s unfortunate that many movies and television shows with queer characters leave the audience heartbroken. This pattern can be seen in the characters who are alienated, forgotten or straight-up killed off and removed in some way or another. In fact, according to an NBC News article written by Alamin Yohannes, there is a phenomenon of specifically queer female characters getting killed off in television shows. As Yohannes mentions in the article, this can be explained by the “Bury Your Gays” trope, which says that queer characters are viewed as more expendable than their heterosexual counterparts. It’s a common theme, and while understandable in some regards, such as “realism,” it gets quite cliche after a while. This is where “Bottoms” (2023), directed by Emma Seligman, comes in.
“Bottoms” is a comedy following two best friends, PJ (Rachel Sennott), and Josie (Ayo Edebiri), who create a “fight club” of sorts in order to get girls. This all begins because PJ and Josie have unrequited crushes on two cheerleaders — Brittany and Isabel — and want to get their attention and “impress” them. The club is advertised as a way for the girls at school to learn self-defense, as well as create an environment for female solidarity. Of course, PJ and Josie don’t really care about the reasoning behind the club and instead are lying to get Brittany and Isabel to like them (and hopefully sleep with them). Surprisingly, even with their inexperience, the club turns out to be a hit. Despite their success, however, the two are now caught up in a lie. The only reason they are “credible” enough to be running a self-defense club is because everyone thinks they went to juvenile detention.
A huge part of the plot revolves around the school football team and its star player, Jeff, who is dating one of the cheerleaders that Josie likes. He’s a stereotypical airheaded jock who the entire school idolizes. When he and his football buddies find out about PJ and Josie’s real intentions behind creating the club, the two make it their goal to stop what the two are doing and expose them.
Although I can say there have been other movies similar to “Bottoms,” most of them revolve around a heterosexual relationship. There are plenty of romance movies ranging in genre about straight couples — from “The Notebook” (2004) to “10 Things I Hate About You” (1999). On the other hand, as mentioned, most films centering around queer women don’t have this versatility, and often end tragically or are nonexistent. More specifically, there isn’t an array of popular rom-coms about queer women. A few exist but they have not come out until recently, excluding the early classic “But I’m A Cheerleader!” (1999). But now we have “Bottoms,” which can be added to the list. It offers something different; something playful, campy and funny. Though it shouldn’t be praised solely for being a gay rom-com that has a happy ending, it’s still a change that’s great to see.
“Bottoms” is advertised as a racy, chaotic comedy, and I think it delivered. It’s satirical and does not take itself seriously. While it explores some important topics, it does not get overly sentimental. The movie is not technically “lighthearted,” but because of its comedy, it sometimes comes across that way — even with the gore (it’s a “fight club,” so it does get a little bloody). Overall, I enjoyed the movie, but I did find some of the characterization to be lacking. For instance, there was little to no character development for certain characters — PJ, for one. Throughout the entire movie, she was a huge bully and liar, but this was overlooked because of her humor and jokes. I felt her character should have been explored a bit more and her apology to the club and to Josie (because of course the two best friends get into a disagreement once the climax of the movie hits) was lukewarm. Of course, this wasn’t the type of movie that focused on exploring the intricacies of each character; however, it’s still something I would have appreciated, even in a small dose.
I would recommend this movie to anyone, although I wouldn’t say it’s for the faint of heart. The comedy can be shocking and dark at times, and moves on rather quickly, not waiting for a reaction. The same goes for the gory scenes: they happen so fast and are then neither addressed nor taken seriously by the characters. While it may not have been intentional, the movie’s overall premise and humor cater to a specific audience. Additionally, if it hasn’t been made clear already, “Bottoms” is unrealistic, surreal, explicit and raunchy. So if you’re looking for a serious movie, and/or a movie to see with your parents, I wouldn’t recommend this one. But if you’re looking for a ridiculous (queer) movie that will both shock you and make you laugh, go ahead and check “Bottoms” out! It’s a fun watch and rising in popularity for a reason.
Ava Werner is a third-year Psychology major. AW973732@wcupa.edu