The Bronze (2016) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout and some drug use
Running Time: 108 min.
Cast: Melissa Rauch, Haley Lu Richardson, Gary Cole, Thomas Middleditch, Sebastian Stan, Cecily Strong
Small role: Craig Kilborn, Dominique Dawes, Olga Korbut, Dominique Moceanu
Director: Bryan Buckley
Screenplay: Melissa Rauch, Winston Rauch
Review published March 21, 2016
Melissa Rauch ("The Big Bang Theory", Are You Here) stars as verbally abusive thirty-ish grouch Hope Annabelle (Ann) Greggory, a former gymnast and current celebrity has-been in her hometown of Amherst, Ohio who improbably won a Bronze medal after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon, an injury that would end her promising career shortly afterward. When her former trainer ends up dead, her will offers Hope the opportunity to be bequeathed a half-million dollars if she can get Maggie Townsend (Richardson, The Last Survivors), another promising local gymnast, to compete in the games in Toronto, win or lose. However, the perpetually spoiled Hope knows that helping her will mean she will forever have to play second fiddle in town, which dissuades her form helping the young trainee win. When a ex-lover and rival coach (Stan, The Martian) threatens to steal Maggie away and take away her chance at a small fortune, Hope is determined to actually show him she has what it takes to make her new student a winner.
The Bronze is an exceedingly unfunny starring vehicle for Melissa Rauch, who does herself no favors by playing one of the most annoying main characters in recent cinematic memory in foul-mouthed narcissist, Hope Greggory. Rauch wrote the screenplay with her husband Winston, and if this is the kind of writing they intend to keep doing in the future, it will only be a matter of time before they add that 'n' to their last name so that they can literally be 'Raunch.' Taking cues from other expletive-filled comedies centering around caustic misanthropes (Bad Santa and Dirty Grandpa come immediately to mind), the jokes fail to land a single blow, despite the decidedly in-your-face nature of the punch lines and sight gags. Right off the bat, we meet Hope pleasuring herself watching footage of her defining moment at the 2004 World games in Rome (the film does not officially make them the Olympic Games, which were actually in Athens that year), and it comes off as joylessly crass and without a trace of genuine humor.
It gets even worse as we see her envy and self-absorption cause her to do harm to a young girl who deserves none of it, again for laughs that not only don't come, but that we're actually repulsed by to the point where we will not find anything Hope does or says remotely amusing or endearing. When she continuously calls the sweet but reserved gym owner 'Twitchy' (Middleditch, The Rebound) because of his facial ticks, our hatred for her grows to the point where we begin to feel she's undeserving of love even with a turnaround of heart.
That level of unbridled abrasiveness and shallow-minded idiocy rarely dissipates through the run time of The Bronze, which only softens for brief moments to let us know that Hope is more a product of arrested development and lack of education than she is just a truly rotten apple to the core. When that extra level of nuance sinks in, the movie does gain a bit of narrative momentum, enough to maintain a modicum of interest in seeing if what had originally been a very one-note caricature is merely hiding a real beating heart under many layers of defense-through-offensiveness. Alas, for every step forward in character growth, the screenplay by Rauch and Rauch merely settles back to first gear again, misguidedly thinking that the comedy gold mine is seeing pettiness and mean-spiritedness in its protagonist.
The end of the film plays with a profanity-laden and archaic attempt at making a rap song as done by Hope Greggory, and it's pretty much as unpleasant to take in as the rest of this anemic attempt to drum up easy laughs through so-called shocking dialogue and situations. The biggest fault of this vulgar misfire isn't that the makers of the film don't know Hope is grossly hateful little witch, but that they don't know that we will find her repellant and unbearable to find amusement in following her antics. As such, there's no chance to medal in the competition for laughs; it's a comedy bust from the get-go.
©2016 Vince Leo