Too bad an interesting concept and a talented cast don’t always add up to a good movie.
In the small town of Amherst, Ohio resides Hope Annabelle Gregory (Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch), 2004 Olympian bronze medalist in her sport—gymnastics. She’s a local celebrity whose fame has long surpassed its shelf life, which is very believable given how small the town is. More than ten years after her big moment, Hope wears her Olympic tracksuit every day. She still manages to get free food at the local diner, complimentary clothes at the mall, and even free weed from her drug dealer. This lifestyle has caused Hope to rot in her own complacency. She’s downright cruel to her co-dependent father (Gary Cole), a single dad who works as a mailman to support the both of them. Hope doesn’t have a job and has zero interest in getting one given all the free swag she receives. On top of that, her father gives her a weekly allowance. Occasionally she’ll steal from the birthday cards in her father’s mail truck with not even the slightest bit of remorse.
Hope’s comfortable lifestyle finally gets disrupted when a young and fresh gymnast, Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson), starts garnering some attention. Maggie’s quite good and has some buzz that suggests she has a shot at going to the Olympics. Hope worries that the young girl will steal her spot as the hometown hero. To make matters worse, Maggie’s training with Hope’s ex-coach. Well, she was, anyway. Soon into the film Hope’s ex-coach dies, and leaves a whopping $500,000 to her if she trains Maggie and sees her to the upcoming Olympics. Hope begrudgingly takes on training Maggie. This ultimately leads her to face many people from her past, but, most importantly, herself.
The Bronze is a comedy-drama where offensive humor reigns supreme. Hope has a foul mouth that spouts some extremely offensive dialogue. She could easily go toe-to-toe with South Park’s Cartman. Melissa Rauch is totally committed to character and gives a boisterous performance. She’s clearly talented, as is the rest of the cast; they all are the film’s best attribute. Thomas Middleditch plays a very likable gym owner who’s long had a crush on Hope. Rauch and Middleditch have great chemistry together, and some of the best scenes involve the two. You probably don’t need me to tell you how capable Gary Cole is. He does fine work here, though I found myself wishing he had more screen time. Some of the most interesting parts of Hope’s psychology lie in her relationship with her father, and it seemed like a missed opportunity to not flesh out that relationship more.
In spite of The Bronze’s strong cast and a promising plot, the movie just doesn’t work. It hurts me to say it, as I really want to get behind a film like this. (I just love movies where girls behave badly, and we certainly don’t get enough intentionally unlikeable female leads.) Much of the problem has to do with the fact that Hope comes off too cartoony. She’s not believable in the slightest and seems more like a sketch comedy character than anything else. Elsewhere, the comedy doesn’t always land. Some—but not enough—jokes caused me to laugh out loud, whereas others struck me as lazy. Worse is how tone-deaf the movie can be. Rauch and her husband Winston Rauch wrote the script together, and it’s very apparent that it’s their first film script. Character motivations often get muddled. Two-thirds into the film there is a sex scene that’s garnered a lot of buzz as being the quote-unquote “funniest sex scene since Team America: World Police.” It’s certainly the film’s biggest moment, and it’ll get big laughs in the theater. However, the ensuing scene causes such emotional whiplash that it threw me out of the film altogether. At such times, the character motivation is baffling, which makes it tough to really care about anyone—especially Hope.
It’s a shame that The Bronze doesn’t succeed, as there’s some interesting ideas at work about how celebrity culture can affect young people, especially when their fame is fleeting. Too bad an interesting concept and a talented cast don’t always add up to a good movie. | Cait Lore