By Gary "Heavy Medal" Murray
Starring Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole and Haley Lu Richardson
Written by Melissa Rauch and Winston Rauch
Directed by Bryan Buckley
Running time 100 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Cable
Sports films have a similar theme. It is usually the mismatch of different athletes who must find common ground and band together in order to win the biggest prize in their sport. Or it is a great team that has lost its way and a lone individual rallies the troops around their new leadership and takes the team to a stunning victory. Or we get the individual who defies all odds by making a singular vault into the winner's circle. But few films focus on the aftermath of not winning. It is that take that is the motion picture Bronze delivers.
The story is of Hope Annabelle Greggory (Melissa Rauch). It starts where most flicks would end. The young woman gets hurt in the Olympics but still insists on doing her final event, the uneven parallel bars. After an amazing performance, she gets the bronze medal, a third place finish.
It is now a decade later and Hope uses the fame to milk her small town community for everything she can take. She never pays for any food, pointing at an autographed picture on different walls around different eating establishments. It is a gravy train that she has no problem exploiting.
Her mailman father Stan (Gary Cole) has been trying to control his only child but she has no problem getting into his mail pouch and stealing birthday card money. Since Hope’s mother died when Hope was an infant, the young woman works that angle against her doting father.
In order to control his daughter, Stan tries tough love and stops some of her more harsh behavior. He puts a lock on his mail truck and pushes her to taking over coaching, getting a real job. But she insists that she is a star not a coach.
The idea of Hope not being the center of attention repulses the young woman. In her town is a naive young woman Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson) who shows the same kind of Olympic prowess that Hope showed so many years ago. Hope hates the young woman even more.
In her small town is also the former coach who pushed young Hope to victory and still runs a gymnastic school. The two women had a falling out many years ago and there is still bitterness between the two. They have not spoken in over a decade
Then a letter comes in the mail right after the funeral of her coach. The letter reads that if Hope will train Maggie then Hope will get the former coach's entire wealth which is half a million dollars.
Hope then takes on the young trainee and decides to sabotage the girl. She pushes the kid to eat massive amounts of junk food, take drugs and not work out. Then Hope finds that not only does she have to train the protégé but she has to make her a champion and place with a medal in competition.
Added into this sports mix is the new owner of the gymnastics school Ben (Thomas Middleditch) who has had a crush on Hope when he was younger and Lance Tucker (Sebastian Stan) a former Olympic gold medalist who Hope has a very hot and cold tension. It is the very uneven triangle between the three that also propels the screenplay.
The performance by Melissa Rauch time and time again knocks on the door of brilliance. The Big Bang Theory actress shows a range that is both unexpected and endearing. She buries so far into the character that she is almost unrecognizable.
This is not a likeable character. She is full of bile and vile behavior that make it almost impossible to like any single element of her person. Then she does something like pick up a cigarette butt on her street that shows she does care about her community and wants it to be represented in the best light. She is a small town girl who loves her small town. Even at her most horrible moments (and there are many of them) she still comes across as a winner.
Haley Lu Richardson has enough charm in one role to last her entire career. She oozes charisma and old fashioned girl next door warmth that endears her to every person in the audience. You just want her to succeed, much to the chagrin of Hope.
This film follows the Bull Durham idea. An older athlete has to take a younger athlete under their wing and teach the greater details of being a true champion. But, along the way, we do get a giant number of f-bombs and just about all the other swear words that are listed in the books. This is not a film for children.
But, that is not the biggest problem with the film. The biggest problem is that it is not that original. It is written by Melissa Rauch and Winston Rauch and it seems to be based on true experiences. The flaw is that the two are not screen writers and it shows in every role that is not of the two female athletes or about competition. All of the male characters are not that thought out and not that well written. The secondary roles come from the stock character vault and none are that compelling or original.
The film is directed by Bryan Buckley and he doesn’t have a good grasp on what exactly the kind of movie he wants to make. Some scenes are smart but even more are crude. There is a sex scene that is about 2/3rds through the work and it goes from cute and bawdy to crude to offensive in a little over two minutes. If the scene were played as a farce like in Team America that would be one thing. But, here it just goes for the soft porn jugular and grips on like the vice of a bull dog.
Bronze is not a great film but it is not as bad as some has made it out to be. It runs along the lines of a sports flick like The Bad News Bears but without the heart or the come from behind from behind jingoism. Melissa Rauch shows she can have a post-television career but not as a writer.