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Sundance 2015: ‘The Bronze’ sticks the landing with some R-rated mettle

bronze

The Bronze
Written by Melissa Rauch and Winston Rauch
Directed by Bryan Buckley
USA, 2015

The Bronze is a wickedly funny comedy that re-affirms the value of R-rated movies. With a voice like sandpaper across your eardrums, Melissa Rauch delivers an unrelentingly vulgar performance that will have the “adults” rolling their eyes and the “immature” rolling with laughter.  You know which camp you occupy, so there’s no excuse for misjudging this modest comedy that aims squarely below the belt and hits its mark with impressive regularity.

Permanently clad in her Olympic warm-up suit, Hope Annabelle Greggory (Rauch) took the Bronze medal by completing her gymnastics routine on a mangled Achilles heel.  She’s like Kerri Strug, only with more obscenities and promiscuous sex.  When Hope returned home to Smalltown, USA, she was hailed as a conquering hero, with a lifetime supply of free ice cream floats and primo marijuana at her disposal. Now, a decade later, another local gymnast named Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson) is rising through the national rankings and Hope won’t cede her most-favored celebrity status without a fight.

Actually, fighting would be too proactive for Hope. Since becoming a woman and developing a massive set of “career killers” (gymnastics lingo for large breasts), Hope’s life has been stuck somewhere between passive-aggression and temper tantrums. Former coaches won’t speak to her, colleagues can’t stand the sight of her, and her poor father (Gary Cole) is so frazzled that his only respite comes from tending his beloved goldfish. Hope’s development has been arrested with no chance of parole.

Luckily, The Bronze doesn’t aspire to change Hope, so much as polish her up a bit. Director Bryan Buckley knows that these movies usually fail when they give their curmudgeon a heart, so he leaves that lump of coal firmly implanted in Hope’s chest. Stylistically, The Bronze treads closer to a film like Bad Santa, with a hero who grudgingly does the right thing, rather than a film like St. Vincent, in which the hero rediscovers his misplaced soul. Hope is bitchy, entitled and oversexed, and those are her good attributes. Buckley plays to Rauch’s gift for vulgarity until the bitter end, ironically using her spitefulness to help save the day.

As you might expect, the plot and storylines from The Bronze are thinner than a balance beam. Melissa Rauch is a sitcom veteran and her script bears the deficiencies that often plague that truncated format. She and co-writer (and husband) Winston Rauch build a flimsy premise that only functions to connect the gags and one-liners. Structurally, their script is a bit of a mess, complete with shifting motivations and a final twist that rings entirely false. Luckily, they create some surprisingly nuanced characters that keep you caring about the outcome long after their bland story loses steam. Their script largely succeeds based on the interplay between the bewildered secondary characters and Hope, who steamrolls through life like a construction worker with a blinding hangover.

For whatever reason, audiences have always been more open to forgiving male scoundrels. That we still like Hope, despite her merciless manipulations and sex-mongering, is a tribute to Rauch’s acting chops and comic delivery. Cole also gives a stellar performance as Hope’s harried father, acting as an impeccable straight man to Rauch’s antics. Rounding out the cast is Thomas Middleditch, who does an admirable job as Hope’s twitchy love interest, and Sebastian Stan, who puts on a brave face in the perfunctory villain role. Stan does, however, get to participate in what will undoubtedly be one of the funniest scenes in 2015. Let’s just say he executes a perfect dismount and really sticks the landing.

The Bronze is an unapologetically-raunchy R-rated comedy that respects the conventions of the genre while still bending a few rules along the way. Its horny and ill-tempered heroine stands tall in a world dominated by macho pigs. No, it’s not destined to become a comedy classic, but The Bronze delivers enough laughs to please lovers of this struggling genre.

— J.R. Kinnard


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