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‘The Bronze’ is a fun romp that lacks identity

Life hands some people lemons and they make lemonade. Life hands other people a gleaming pitcher of sweet, tart lemonade and they pour it all over the place and turn everything around them sour.

The dark comedy “The Bronze” explores this theme, albeit in a lumbering, definitely R-rated way, through the twisted story of fictional Olympic gymnastics champion Hope Annabelle Greggory.

Hope has turned a fairy-tale 2004 Olympics bronze medal win totally rancid with a decade of terrorizing her small Ohio hometown. Played by an unrecognizable Melissa Rauch from television’s “The Big Bang Theory,” Hope is absolutely unredeemable, insolent and loathsome. America’s Anti-Sweetheart. We hate her.

She’s a thief, she berates (with a severe case of potty mouth) her long-suffering father (Gary Cole), and takes advantage of any remnants of adulation left over from her long-past athletic achievement with preferred parking at the local diner and “don’t you know who I am” ego. She wears her worn old Olympic track suit as her daily uniform.

Hope’s former coach commits suicide, and as a condition of leaving Hope a fortune, the will forces Hope to coach the town’s wide-eyed gymnastic wunderkind. With her eyes on $500,000, Hope reluctantly takes on the task of basically finding her replacement for the role of Hometown Hero. The unfolding plot is predictable, with an occasional sharp veer into left field.

She starts off as more corruptor than coach, but the idea of losing the fortune from her coach’s estate wins out and Hope puts her real skills to the test and begins to build the young teen (Haley Lu Richardson) into a true champion.

Hope’s pre-champion world was not a silver-spoon Olympic champion upbringing, however. Hers was more the Tonya Harding hardscrabble trailer park version, complete with the dime-store Scrunchie holding her short ponytail in place. This is really the only clue we have as to why she threw away her one chance at a great life, or why she’s so insufferable.

Some of the contemptuous comedy falls flat because we can’t get invested enough in Hope as a character to know why she’s so completely appalling – we are just asked to accept that she’s monstrous and then go along with her path to redemption.

But, to credit Rauch’s brittle portrayal, there are moments where it works and the laughs do come.

Can a character so vile and black-hearted, with such sharp edges, ever soften and learn that she has been her own worst enemy all this time? Well, with a neat little plot twist in there, yes.

There are enough funny peaks among the valleys to make it worth a Netflix view for those who like dark comedies, or for those who are fans of Rauch, who co-wrote the film with her husband. The debauched script explores the strange comedy in questions like “What would sex between two gymnasts be like?”

Like its anti-hero, though, the film doesn’t really seem to settle in its own identity. The warped comedic moments juxtaposed with sweet romantic scenes sometimes don’t transition well, but it’s a fun romp enough.


2 stars

Starring: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Haley Lu Richardson

Director: Bryan Buckley

Running time: 108 minutes

Rated: for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, strong profanity and drug use.

The Lowdown: A washed-up, bitter former Olympic medalist is in danger of losing her hometown-hero status to an up-and-coming young gymnast.

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