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Sundance Review: THE BRONZE

The Bronze is a fun, raunchy comedy that will certainly play to mainstream audiences. A sweet gymnast girl talking dirty will make people laugh. It looks like some real gymnasts are performing athletics and then cut to the actors are having fun in their world. It really made me want to watch Gymkata when I get home too.

Hope Anne Greggory (Melissa Rauch) was injured in the 2004 Olympics but finished anyway in a triumphant Bronze winning parallel bars routine. Cut to Hope today diddling herself to the video of her last glory. She is now a has-been who keeps trading on her minimal fame. She gets freebies at the food court and lives with her dad (Gary Cole), but the money from her old endorsements is running out. When her old coach dies, she promises to leave Hope $500,000 if she’ll train the young gymnast she left behind.

It’s essentially the plot of a ‘90s Saturday Night Live vehicle. A wacky character needs to make a lot of money and she’ll get it if she takes this crazy job. Can you imagine this bitter, vulgar has been influencing a hopeful young talent? There are some amazing set pieces and I know exactly what this film’s red band trailer is going to be.

Rauch wrote a character for herself that allows her to be brazen, manipulative and wholly unlikeable. She even tailored it to her own body, as her physicality is a factor in Hope’s post-Olympics decline. The new Olympic hopeful Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson) is so adorable. Cole gets some dirty laughs (his hymen line kills) but really nails the father’s dilemma of love vs. discipline.

I respect the film’s darkness and it pulls no punches with the consequences for Hope’s behavior, but the film is too long and dilutes its punch by dragging jokes out long past the point we got it. Of course, it wouldn’t feel too long if everything were as funny as the peaks, but it’s that modern plague of comedies that don’t know when to get out. Some jokes are blatantly obvious. Hope tells Mandy that camel toe means something else, so you know she’s going to end up saying it at a competition. They even pay off the joke too soon. At least wait for a big performance to humiliate her.  Yet I am still grinning at the naughty laughs in the film.

I saw The Bronze on opening night and I didn’t think it was in the running for a Sundance favorite, but I haven’t forgotten it all week. Part of that is the outrageous scenes that are designed to stick in your memory, but a lot of it is just how much I liked Rauch and respect her bold script and performance.

Rating – Redbox