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Review: The Bronze (Sundance 2015)

The Bronze (Sundance 2015)
4 10

PLOT: Ten years after winning a bronze Olympic medal, washed-up gymnast Hope Ann Greggory (Melissa Rauch) lives in her small town with her adoring father (Gary Cole) getting by on her minor celebrity status. When her former coach dies, Greggory is forced to take her place training a young Olympic hopeful in order to receive a large inheritance that's being held in trust.

REVIEW: The opening night press screenings at Sundance are almost a hallowed experience for journalists attending the fest. By this point, most of us have arrived and are eager to start binge watching whatever we can. With only a few minor films playing the fest opening night, all eyes are turned to the first “in competition” movie to be played, and the Sundance programmers can be assured that whatever film is chosen to play the first night will be seen by pretty much all the media that's in town. Last year's film was WHIPLASH, and the screening set off a chain reaction of buzz which paid off the morning the Oscar nominations were announced. Sadly, lightening did not strike twice this year with THE BRONZE.

Being a crass comedy, it already seemed like a bizarre choice for the opening night film (although technically the Netflix doc WHAT HAPPENED MISS SIMONE – which is already streaming – was the true premiere). Still, THE BRONZE had a ton of buzz, mostly thanks to star Melissa Rauch, who's best known for THE BIG BANG THEORY where she plays the lovable Bernadette. In THE BRONZE, which Rauch co-wrote with her husband Winston, she's anything but lovable. The character is clearly supposed to be in the mold of someone like Cameron Diaz in BAD TEACHER, with her foul-mouthed, junk-food eating perpetual adolescent obviously intended to become a comedic character that will be unconventionally appealing enough to get this a rich distribution deal.

The problem is that Rauch, for all of her charm, just goes way overboard. Adopting a shrill, nasally voice, her Hope Ann is less lovably neurotic than a full-on sociopath. What's worse is clearly you're supposed to like her, but it's a tough thing to accomplish when your audience is no doubt anxious for your heroine to get her comeuppance. If they had dialed her back maybe 50% they would have had something, but she's so mean-spirited and unpleasant that within twenty minutes you'll be dreading following her to the time the end credits roll – which is not helped by the fact that this runs close to two hours (at eighty minutes this might have been tolerable).

Still, THE BRONZE does have brief moments of inspiration, a fact which – if anything – makes this even more frustrating to watch. One bit, which is a deliciously foul and filthy sex scene where the gymnast characters use their Olympic level skills for some acrobatic amour, is terrific. Rauch also feels like given the right part she could be a great comedienne, and heck, had Hope Ann been toned down a tad, this could have been a star-making turn. The supporting cast is also excellent, with Gary Cole stealing scenes as her outrageously doting dad, and Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier himself!) making for a fun antagonist as Hope Ann's former Olympic nemesis.

It's really too bad that the film goes so horribly awry early on. This could have really worked, with even the obvious low-budget (which includes the most laughably ramshackle Olympic ceremony ever shot) not being too much of a detriment, even if the scope is somewhat beyond the resources available. It all really comes down to a main character that just feels totally misjudged. A little outrageousness is good, but it's a thin line. Sadly, THE BRONZE feels like a film that had all the ingredients for a breakout indie comedy, but just totally screwed up the recipe nonetheless. Too bad.

Source: JoBlo.com

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