The Bronze (2015)

  • Time: 108 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Bryan Buckley
  • Cast: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Haley Lu Richardson


A foul-mouthed former gymnastics bronze medalist with local celebrity status reluctantly trains a rising Olympics aspirant.

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  • By turns savage, bilious, outrageous, one-note, and wearying, The Bronze provides a sterling showcase for Melissa Rauch, best-known for her role as Bernadette on the popular television comedy series, The Big Bang Theory.

    The Olympics have arguably been the longest-running reality series in history, its narrative consistently powered by an international cast of characters who come bearing their tales of overcoming obstacles personal, physical and mental, whose dreams end in either the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, and whose personalities can often rival those in telenovelas. Winners aren’t necessarily the ones most remembered. Kerri Strug never won an individual medal during the 1996 Olympics but who can ever forget her limping to the end of the runway to make her second vault attempt, landing on both feet before collapsing to her knees, securing the gold medal for the U.S. Women’s Team while sacrificing her own chances to medal in the individual events, and then being carried to the podium by coach Béla Károlyi?

    Hope Ann Gregory (Rauch) had a similar moment of glory in the fictional 2004 Olympics, winning the bronze medal and the hearts of everyone in her hometown of Amherst, Ohio by performing her uneven bars routine with an injury. It’s been ten years since that career highlight but Hope continues to revel in the celebrity it afforded her. The sweet and fresh-faced teen of 2004 is long gone, existing only in the footage that provides sexual pleasure to the foul-mouthed, tyrannical leech that Hope Ann has become. Certainly Hope seems a Norma Desmond or Baby Jane Hudson in the making, dwelling in a bedroom chock full of stuffed animals, trophies, and memorabilia and invariably attired in her red-white-and-blue warmup suit. The local merchants still treat her like a queen, providing her with all manner of free things. Her impossibly subservient father (Gary Cole) is catering to her every demand, but even he knows that she needs to grow up and move on at some point.

    Hope is lured into adulthood by a letter from her recently deceased former coach. If Hope can train promising gymnast Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson, who resembles a cross between Hailee Steinfeld and Emilia Clarke) and ensure that she reaches the Olympic trials, then Hope will receive half a million dollars. At first, Hope’s pride overtakes her greed – she deliberately sabotages Maggie’s training, ordering her to visualise her routines instead of actually practicing them and having her load up on junk food. When Hope’s chances of getting the money is threatened, she’s forced to train Maggie in earnest which means dimming her own star in order to ensure Maggie her turn in the spotlight.

    Rauch, who co-wrote the screenplay with her husband Winston Rauch, gets maximum mileage out of playing the monstrous Hope. With a voice dipped in acid and vinegar and a precise and self-contained demeanor, Rauch is superbly repugnant in the role, spinning comic gold out of her frequently raunch-laden lines. Her co-stars add to her performance. Richardson’s beaming enthusiasm is crucial as is Thomas Middleditch’s endearingly bashful performance as Hope’s love interest; their efforts make Hope’s burgeoning humanity all the more affecting.

    Then there is Sebastian Stan as the cocky, gold medal-winning Lance, Hope’s former lover and current coaching rival, who matches her for pure rottenness. They would be perfect for one another if they didn’t hate each other so much. Their hysterically gymnastic sex scene – at one point, Lance uses Hope as a pommel horse – is surely one of the funniest of the year and is the film’s absolute highlight.

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