Released: March 18, 2016. Directed by: Bryan Buckley. Starring: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Haley Lu Richardson. Runtime: 1hr, 40 min.
Written by Melissa Rauch (TV’s The Big Bang Theory) and her husband Winston Rauch, The Bronze appears to rely on the idea that since the 4-foot-11 sweet-natured Melissa Rauch is foul-mouthed and aggressive here, it would be so ironic that it would result in big laughs.
The thing is – it’s not funny, and the way it throws a mix of swear words together never amounts to anything hysterical. Which is disappointing, considering it is a passion project.
Rauch stars as Hope Ann Gregory, a local celebrity who brought back an Olympic bronze medal from Rome to Amherst, Ohio. But though she is from Ohio, she has an accent that’s like a bizarre Chicago and Minnesota hybrid.
She gets whatever she wants in the town – from free food to a reserved parking spot next to her favourite diner. She still always wears her Olympic Team USA tracksuit from 2004 – and after an injury ended her gymnastics career, she’s embittered that her 15 minutes of fame is way behind her.
With her life stalled, her former coach commits suicide. (I know what you’re thinking: She doesn’t commit suicide because Hope is such a b–ch, but because it’s needed to advance the plot.) She requests, in her will, that Hope coach Olympic hopeful Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson) to greatness, and if she does, she will get $500,000.
A problem with the film is the fact that Rauch’s Hope Ann Gregory is plainly unlikable. She’s a bratty 30-year-old misanthrope that sincerely acts like she is still 17 years old. The point of the character is for her to be unlikable – but it is never funny.
We first meet the embittered Gregory in an ode to her large ego – in her bed masturbating to the video of her bronze medal win. Her huge ego definitely surpasses her size, and also feels like an ego of a gold medalist – not a bronze medalist. She’s eventually characterized as being scared of being forgotten.
But even with that and a forced love interest, there’s never a moment where where we root for Hope. There was really only one time I liked her on a mild level, when she was teaching Maggie stage presence. She smiles a lot and she is like a different person – which might be why I liked her in that moment.
She’s hard to relate to and she’s mean to her core, a character aspect that doesn’t work for Rauch’s kind demeanor.
The character we’re rooting for is Maggie – depicted as humble and a bit unrealistically innocent. We want her to win because she seems like a genuinely nice girl. Haley Lu Richardson’s performance is super likable and bubbly as the character. Both Gary Cole, Thomas Middleditch and Sebastian Stan round out the main cast – but they can’t even save this turd.
A writing choice at the end of the film turned this from simply a bad film to a disaster for me. It felt like a last-ditch effort to make Hope more likable. Character decisions made me think that the Rauch writing pair either didn’t understand their characters or just wanted to rush the ending. Either way, it made the characters feel more like caricatures of their huge egos – or results of bad writing – than actual people we might relate to.
The feature has good cinematography (kudos to the only winner here, Scott Henriksen). I liked the gymnastics of it, but we’re treated to more training scenes and not given enough cool scenes when Maggie is actually competing towards the end.
A sex scene between Rauch and Stan is overtly dark, likely to hide the super obvious Cirque du Soleil stunt doubles for Rauch, and quickly edited and a weaker aspect of the cinematography.
But the coitus feels longer than Maggie’s final display of gymnastics. It threatens to take over the rest of the film in terms of memorable raunchiness – which is saying something.
There’s a lot of raunch from the Rauch couple, but I think the only time I even chuckled was when Ben was having a bad twitch. Otherwise, I was questioning why it was billed as a comedy.
The film itself is mean-spirited overall, with Hope’s actions against everyone. But kudos to Rauch for branching out from her sitcom fame and bringing another unlikable, female antihero asshole to the big screen – as they’re so often portrayed by men. But it just isn’t funny, which is particularly disappointing.
It has none of the (slight) charm that worked for Jason Bateman’s Bad Words. I think that worked to a degree because Bateman actually has the comedic ability and sarcastic wit to believably portray a foul-mouthed, grown up spelling bee contestant.
But with The Bronze, Rauch doesn’t sell it. The language is raunchy, but it doesn’t make it funny. She isn’t believable as being foul-mouthed or aggressive – she looks too innocent. It really fails in almost every aspect and it’s a box office disaster for good reason: It sucks.