The Bronze is the story of a woman who achieved an impossible medal in gymnastics but instead of using that to go on to better things, coasted on the glory of that achievement – then, for all the wrong reasons, found a way to move on… and nearly blew it.
Hope Ann (Melissa Rauch, The Big Bang Theory) once pulled of a gold medal at the world championships despite having had an Achilles tendon injury just before her final event. Instantly, she became a legend.
Now, years later, she’s reduced to living in her dad’s (Gary Cole) basement, stealing money from the bags of mail in his delivery trick and living on freebies from vendors in food court of the local mall. She’s a bile-spouting bitch of epic proportions, laying f-bombs on the local gym owner (who’s obviously crazy about her for some unknown reason) and her dad – and anyone who fails to recognize her (she tools around town in her USA track suit).
A chance meeting with Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson), a gymnast who wants to be a champion, goes as you might expect – Hope is a jerk; Maggie’s so naïve she doesn’t realise it – and then a seeming miracle happens. Maggie’s coach (who also coached Hope) dies and a letter tells Hope that if she trains Maggie and gets to the big meet in Toronto, she will inherit $500,000.
Hope’s first thought (and plan) is to get Maggie to do everything that will kill her chances, but after her ex (and a gold and silver medal winner), Lance (Sebastian Stan) attempts to steal Maggie away, Hope is forced to coach for real.
All the while, that local gym owner, Ben/Twitchy (Thomas Middleditch) is doing whatever he can to help out.
Rauch and her husband, Winston Rauch, wrote the very blue script (seriously, the language here makes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg look like the epitome of sweetness and light), but they also give us some very engaging characters (Hope becoming one of them along the way) and clearly understand the concept of sports rivalries.
Director Bryan Buckley has worked on shorts and commercials, so he knows how to tell a story efficiently, on a budget. The Bronze doesn’t look especially refined, but it’s not supposed to. It’s also not the R-rated laugh riot that the trailers make it out to be – it’s a bit more thoughtful and deliberate than that.
Rauch does a lovely job with Hope’s barely contained rage and makes her (very) slow discovery that there are things besides herself that she can care about.
Cole makes us believe in a dad who loves his daughter but just can’t deal with her crap anymore – to the point that he would do almost anything to get through to her.
Richardson, though, is the main source of the film’s energy. She gives The Bronze its sparkle. Her growth from naïve enthusiasm to something else entirely, is a joy to watch.
And what would a movie about gymnasts be without a gymnastic sex scene? There’s one here and it is both hilarious and spectacular.
In the end, The Bronze is a definite medalist.
Final Grade: B+