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Sunday, June 23, 2024
Bottoms Press Photo

Courtesy of MGM Pictures

The ‘Bottoms’ phenomenon: Why the indie film is resonating with audiences in Madison and elsewhere

This film is very aware of its overexaggerated portrayal of high school and doesn't take itself too seriously.

My friends and I set off on a journey last weekend to see “Bottoms,” directed by Emma Seligman. 

The film's opening weekend was marked by disappointment for many people, including myself, as the film was only available in about 10 theaters nationwide, with the closest one to Madison being in Chicago. Despite its limited release, the film grossed over $450,000 in its opening weekend, a high number when the amount of theaters showing the film is factored in. 

Week two brought more theaters into the mix, leading me to the Marcus Palace Cinema in Sun Prairie. The movie itself had all the makings of a cult classic: up-and-coming actresses, a heartfelt coming-of-age story and, most notably, a semi-empty theater for the 6:30 p.m. showing.

But what our theater lacked in numbers, it made up for in laughter. 

The first thing you should know about “Bottoms” is that it’s a gay movie. The film’s main characters, PJ (Rachel Sennot) and Josie (Ayo Edibiri), are out lesbians. It's PJ and Josie’s love for women which drives them to create a girls-only fight club so they can gain the attention of popular cheerleaders Brittany (Kaia Gerber) and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu). 

In many ways, “Bottoms” is your typical high school movie. The nerd intends to win the cheerleader away from her football quarterback boyfriend with the backdrop of an incredibly overhyped football game. 

And in a lot of other ways, it isn’t your typical high school movie. Even in 2023, it’s impressive to see two lesbian main characters — especially ones who are out like PJ and Josie — and to have the plot revolve around their romantic aspirations. There’s also a borderline copious amount of blood in this film, both in the fight club scenes and in the eventual final fight which takes place during the aforementioned football game. I won’t spoil anything else about it because it's truly something you have to see for yourself. 

This film is very aware of its overexaggerated portrayal of high school and doesn't take itself too seriously. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a moment where the film takes itself seriously at all. 

One of my complaints about the film is a seeming lack of accountability — both to itself and to its characters. We root for Josie and PJ throughout the film, but it’s hard not to find yourself wondering why they never face consequences for their actions. 

In the end, whenever or however you can see “Bottoms” — see “Bottoms”. 

More than anything else, this movie is fun. And if you won’t take my word for it, take the word of the woman in my theater who, by the end of the movie, had laughed so furiously she was all but out of breath. 

This movie is a great time. Once you see it, it’s easy to see why it’s as sought after as it is. 

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Gabriella Hartlaub

Gabriella Hartlaub is the former arts editor for The Daily Cardinal. She has also written state politics and campus news. She currently is a summer reporting intern with Raleigh News and Observer. Follow her on Twitter at @gabihartlaub.

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