Bottoms (Emma Seligman, US, 2023)

BOTTOMS (d: Emma Seligman) is my fourth film directed by a woman seen at the cineplex this week. Amazing. It’s a teen film about sex-mad teenagers desperate to lose their virginity, except the besties at the centre of this story are lesbians. Their idea of getting the girls they want is to invent a fight club, ostensibly to provide safety, sisterhood and community; but really in order to get laid. It all backfires of course. The film sticks to genre – the principal, the cool teacher with problems, the football players, the cheer-leaders, the big game – but mixes it all up with a dollop of all kinds of feminism: ‘who is bell hooks and why is she important?’ is not normally the kind of question asked in the genre. The protagonists Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott have great chemistry and Edebiri is charismatic and true and funny: a potent combination. I laughed a lot but the film proves Edgar Wright’s point that American films have forgotten how to deploy sights and sounds in the service of comedy. All the jokes are driven by dialogue, improv and performance. I sometimes feel like that olden days guy who thought shocking a glimpse of stocking, in that things that would have been thought ground-breaking in my youth now appear regularly. Still, I don’t remember seeing a feminist film with two lesbians as protagonists before. It is really smart and laugh-out loud funny. I enjoyed it very much but still wish it were better.

José Arroyo

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