The Bronze sets out to be a comedy about a brassy and sassy little lady with a big mouth and broken dreams who’s outrageously trapped in the faded glory of her past, but ends up being a sad story about an insecure bully who tears everyone down to feel big.
Hope, played by Melissa Raunch (Big Bang Theory), gets a letter saying she will inherit a huge amount of money if she shakes off the doldrums and uses her knowledge and skills as an America’s Sweetheart gymnastic champion to train the next up and coming Olympic hopeful star played by a bubbly and upbeat Haley Lu Richardson. At first Hope sees this as a chance to sabotage to only competition to her legacy but then is forced to to turn it around and help her when she learns will lose everything if she doesn’t.
Hope begrudgingly steps up to the task and puts Maggie though a tough love, smack-that-smile-off-your-face, crash course in being faux adorable and pandering to judges and pushing your body to the limit. The unhealthy friendship and trust her protege develops while working with her threatens to be the girl’s undoing unless they pull of a miracle. The whole time Hope is fighting off her rival, played by Sebastian Stan, who is courting Maggie as his trainee and appears to be guilty of nothing more than being a competent coach with career ambitions.
Raunch’s role of Hope, played as a foul-mouthed put upon forever-tween, comes off as a little too truly nasty and self adsorbed when set against the remarkably genuine seeming performances of her cast mates.
The love interest of the movie, played by Thomas Middleditch, is a shy but kind fellow gymnast-turned-coach whose debilitating facial ticks kept him from achieving greatness at his sport. He is constantly mocked by Hope who calls him “Twitchy”, and picks on him for his old fashioned devotion to the ideal of no sex before marriage and his awkward wholesomeness which are used as an endless point of torment.
Watching Gary Col’s performance as Hope’s earnestly loving and overly understanding widowed single parent father makes it heartbreaking to watch as time after time his kindness is met with downright cruel disrespect and jaw dropping abuse.
The constant swapping from Hope’s toddler-sized dependency demands punctuated by shockingly empathetically-stunted tantrums, to flaunting bar-room gutter-mouth comebacks and over the top full-nude gymnastic bedroom scenes is far more unsettling than amusing.
The humor is tragically tone deaf, and doesn’t seem to recognize where the film’s strengths are. At times the movie threatens to be a heartfelt and well acted story about finding greatness by letting go, but ends up tripping over its attempts to make everyone the butt of the joke and stooping for the low blow, and is dragged down by a plot that can’t hide the glaring ugliness of the heart of the so called protagonist.
The movie’s crime isn’t daring to show an outspoken woman, it’s making it’s main character such a truly petty and vile bully that it feels wrong to cheer them.
The Bronze barges into theaters March 18th.