Directed by Bryan Buckley
Opens March 18
“You just want to fuck a gymnast, right?” That’s a seed planted in The Bronze by the foul-mouthed Hope Ann Greggory, which sprouts much later in a wild scene featuring a human pommel horse, a gold medal tattoo around a sex organ (“Give me the gold!”), and an absurd array of sexual positions relying on handstands and backflips. What could prevent this scene from circulating social media in GIF form?
We meet Hope (Melissa Rauch) via a perfect encapsulation of her narcissism: she masturbates to the tape of her medal-clinching performance in the 2004 Olympics. Rauch co-wrote the script, so the crude opening reads almost as a conscious separation from Bernadette, her much friendlier character on The Big Bang Theory. As Hope, Rauch maintains the sharp tongue, but any family-friendly network TV filters have been turned off, and she revels in the opportunity to take meaner digs, although the tendency for name-calling stops The Bronze from taking on the venom of, say, an Alex Ross Perry film, which would indict rather than celebrate this stock-character of recent independent cinema and of Duplass Brothers Productions, of which this is one.
Now twelve years removed from Olympic glory and still a gymnast only in her own delusions, Hope lives with and all but abuses her dad, along with anyone else who dares talk to her like a human rather than a hero. A suicide note from her former coach, however, sees her takeover coaching up-and-comer Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson), who is getting ready for her own close-up in the international arena.
Even moving beyond the fact that very few of Hope’s diatribes are actually funny—a shortcoming consistent with the film’s tendency to telegraph its jokes—one shortcoming after another becomes apparent. Plot and characters are both enormously clichéd, with the sole exception an 11th hour change of heart so abrupt that it exists only to emphasize what the film is really about, exemplifying a tendency not to create a universe and drama, but to impose events, however unlikely and incongruous they may be, to fulfill a pre-determined arc. And there lies the biggest problem: The Bronze is not a story about ephemeral fame, the responsibilities that accompany success, staying true to one’s roots, arrested development, or anything else existing on the peripheral of the film’s laser-focus, but rather one about a person so certain of her own brilliance that the world itself must correct itself to prove it. With storytelling this shoddy, one must wonder if anyone will care enough to create the GIFs.