*1/2 (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Bryan Buckley
STARS Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole
Thomas Middleditch and Melissa Rauch in The Bronze (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)
Hollywood has presented viewers with far too many movies in which the protagonist is a petulant man-child, so it's only fair that here's one in which the lead is a bratty woman-child. But did the film have to be this bad?
Say this for the mostly insufferable flicks (many, of course, starring Will Ferrell) that have paved the way for this one: The stunted-development character may be spoiled and whiny and self-centered, but usually there's a glint of decency buried within, a likably self-effacing trait that allows us to at least marginally tolerate the person as he heads toward his third-act maturation. But The Bronze, co-written by star Melissa Rauch and hubby Winston Rauch, immediately puts up a wall by making Hope Ann Greggory an utterly repellent character, one so grating that the promise of spending 90 minutes with her seems tantamount to a stint on Death Row.
A former gymnast whose claim to fame was that she placed third in the Olympics while a teenager, she has done nothing with her life in the decade-plus since that shining moment, instead preferring to live at home with her infinitely patient dad (Gary Cole) and masturbate to video footage of her bronze-earning moment. For purely mercenary reasons too convoluted to explain here, she eventually agrees to coach a fellow Amherst, Ohio, resident, a perky teen gymnast named Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson), all the while worried that if Maggie achieves greater success, then her own modicum of fame within the Amherst city limits will completely dissipate.
It's certainly a workable premise for a comedy — more so if tackled as a satire on this nation's obsession with those precious 15 minutes of fame — but The Bronze is myopic in its execution, opting for a petty and mean-spirited approach devoid of the acerbic wit and acute insight necessary to transform it into a worthy black comedy.
In addition to Hope being such an obnoxious character, she's simply not interesting, and Rauch is woefully unfunny in the role. Of course, Hope softens over the course of the film, but it's not a believable thaw, and the film ends up becoming yet another example of this country's current craze with championing mediocrity. Its only saving graces are the performances by Richardson as the bubbly teen athlete and Thomas Middleditch as Hope's assistant coach and unlikely love interest. Their work deserves an 8.0 from the judges, but no one else involved with this tarnished Bronze should be allowed anywhere near the winners' circle.