Mark Reviews Movies

The Bronze


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Bryan Buckley

Cast: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Haley Lu Richardson, Thomas Middleditch, Sebastian Stan, Cecily Strong, Dale Raoul

MPAA Rating: R (for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout and some drug use)

Running Time: 1:48

Release Date: 3/18/16

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 18, 2016

There's a scene in The Bronze in which the protagonist decides to tell a pretty repulsive lie to a teenage girl who doesn't deserve it. Nobody, really, deserves the emotional turmoil that would result from such a lie, but emotional turmoil is exactly what Hope (Melissa Rauch) wants to inflict upon this girl. The reason is to sabotage the girl's chances of personal triumph in order preserve Hope's own accomplishment. It's something Hope has spent a good portion of the movie doing when she's left to her own devices, and this is the climax of it.

Hope is not a likeable character in the slightest. That's the point, although it's more to the point of the movie that she eventually reforms.

This brings us to another lie. This lie is perpetrated by the movie itself, as we learn that Hope's lie and the fallout of it are simply taking place in her mind during a brief moment of decision.

It's tough to tell which lie—Hope's imagined one or the movie's actual one—is more troubling. That's beside the point, because the two deceptions work in tandem to give us a sense of Hope's transformation—from a woman who will do and say anything in order to maintain her local celebrity into a woman who really, really wants to do and say anything in order to keep miniscule fame. Apparently, the best person she can be is one who simply suppresses her narcissistic, destructive urges.

I found myself wishing that Hope's daydream had been real—not only because it would take the story in an unexpected direction but also because it would mean avoiding the old routine of a movie presenting an unapologetically awful character and expecting us to sympathize with that character because of a last-minute, forcibly prompted change. Also, Hope is so obnoxious, so egotistical, and so delusional about her importance that I found myself hoping for her downfall. If she had done what she wanted to do, the only logical conclusion to that turn of events would have been public disgrace.

That would have been satisfying. Instead, the screenplay by Rauch and her husband Winston takes the safer, more obvious, and wholly dishonest approach. Due to an assortment of past troubles that come to light in hollowly manipulatively ways, Hope isn't to blame for her actions. In fact, she's to be commended for being slightly less of a self-satisfied, caustic jerk by the end of the movie.

Hope is the hometown hero of a small town in Ohio after her inspirational appearance at an international sports competition for amateur athletics about two decades ago (One assumes no one involved in the production even bothered to contact the organization after which this generic version is modeled). She overcame an injury and won the bronze medal for gymnastics, and now, in her 30s and still living at home with her overly accommodating father Stan (Gary Cole), she masturbates to a video of her triumphant performance.

Naturally, Stan wants his daughter to get a job and move out of the hose (For his concern, he gets a daily dose of verbal abuse from her). By coincidence, Hope's former coach dies and bequeaths $500,000 to her former student on one condition: that Hope coaches Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson), a promising gymnast, to an appearance in the upcoming games.

Hope is as dense as she is cruel, so at first, she attempt to sabotage Maggie's training. She drugs her on the day Lance (Sebastian Stan), the coach of the American team, arrives to check on her progress. Once she learns that she won't receive the money if Lance takes over coaching duties, she finally, grudgingly takes responsibility for the future of a girl who idolizes her.

The "joke" is that Hope is awful—a crude, foul-mouthed, mean-spirited, intentionally hurtful spoiled brat with an inflated sense of self-importance that should make her intolerable to everyone around her. For some reason, nobody seems to care about or even notice Hope's abundant negative qualities. She even has a romantic interest in the form of Ben (Thomas Middleditch), the owner of the gym where Hope trained in her youth and now trains Maggie. She mocks the guy for having uncontrollable facial spasms, so obviously, he's head-over-heels in love with her.

The character would be bad enough, but it's the way The Bronze tries to turn her into some kind of wounded, troubled soul that really irritates. It's a lazy grab for sympathy for a character who, based on every piece of evidence here that matters, doesn't deserve it.

Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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