‘The Bronze’ Goes for the Gold—A Review

The Bronze Goes for the Gold—A Review

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Hope Ann Gregory (Melissa Rauch) was the star of her hometown after making it to the Olympics for gymnastics. A career-ending injury left her with the Bronze medal, but in the ensuing decade Hope clung to the glory lavished upon her as a child. Enabled by her well-meaning father Stan (Gary Cole), Hope became an adult who never quite grew up, entirely dependent on her father’s financial support as well as the small town’s emotional support. She still wants everyone to see her as a star, even though she’s lost much of her shine. Bossy, selfish, and foul-mouthed, Hope is perfectly fine with her lot in life, though her father wants more for her. She begrudgingly takes on training Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson), a talented young gymnast who could possibly surpass Hope’s own accomplishments. She even more begrudgingly entertains a romance with Ben (Thomas Middleditch), an adorably awkward employee of the gym who is sweeter to Hope than she deserves. Hope’s rival Lance (Sebastian Stan) is eager to take over as Maggie’s trainer, but his antagonism isn’t nearly as much of an obstacle as Hope’s own self-destructive tendencies. Both her and Maggie’s futures are at stake in this debut comedy by Bryan Buckley was written by Rauch and her husband Winston Rauch.

Comedies are difficult to review because of how subjective humor can be. Even when it comes to raunchy comedies, it’s not a matter of good taste or bad taste, but whether it is your taste. A comedy could make one person laugh from start to finish and leave another person stone-faced the entire time. For me, the true measure of a comedy is how it sustains itself after the jokes. Do the characters have depth? Do you care about what happens to them? Is the world they inhabit fully formed and believable (within the prerequisite boundaries of suspending disbelief)? When it comes to The Bronze, the answer to all these questions is a resounding yes. Across the board, the directing, the writing, and the performances are stellar.  Cole, a comedy veteran, hits a career high, while Rauch transitions from sitcom to film with a star-making performance. Even Sebastian Stan surprises, offering up something completely different than what he’s displayed in the Captain America movies.

Rauch doesn’t rely on Hope’s foul mouth to carry the film. She offers up Hope as an unlikable character, and then challenges the viewers to see past her flaws and actually root for her. It would be fairly easy to dismiss her as an irredeemable asshole, but that makes the reward of investing in her even greater. Using the framework of a “sports movie” to chart Hope’s development is fairly ingenious. It utilizes all of the genre’s tropes—the underdog, the superior opponent, the training, and the spectacle of the final competition—and yet Hope isn’t the one competing for a medal. The stakes for her are just as great and conveyed perfectly by parallels to her protege’s physical trials.

Perhaps the only misstep the film makes is the physics-defying sex scene. Don’t get me wrong, it’s funny, and it does serve the story, but it’s pushes the limits of credibility and veers into over-the-top territory. The ridiculousness of it works against its narrative purpose. In any other film, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but here it stuck out because I did not feel it was on par with the rest of the film. Conversely, the film had one of the sweetest and best realized first date scenes since Rocky. There’s so much charm and chemistry on display in that scene to forgive any other problems with the film.

It’s frustrating to see this film had a fairly small release and little-to-no publicity and marketing. It’s box office run brought in a mere $615,816. Original and genuinely great comedies are rare these days. The Bronze should have been met with the same reception as Bridesmaids or even Trainwreck, to which it is a far, far superior film. I hope it finds all the viewers it deserves now that it’s available on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD. Go watch it already!