File under interesting failure; I don’t remember Brian Buckley’s raunchy sports comedy ever getting a cinema release in the UK after polarising opinion in Sundance; it turns up on freetv, formerly imdb.tv, unheralded to have a similar effect on streaming audiences. It’s an underdog story, of a young female gymnast who is mentored by an experienced Olympian, but don’t let the sports-movie clichés fool you; The Bronze isn’t exactly feel-good fare.
The star, and co-writer, is Melissa Rauch, instantly recognisable as the helium voiced blonde Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory. She pops up every day in an avalanche of click-bait saying that she’s nothing like the character she plays in the sitcom; The Bronze was an effort to show that she’s anything but the bubbly blonde that the public know and love her as. Instead, The Bronze sees Rauch play Hope Ann Greggory, a gymnast who managed a bronze medal finish at the Olympics, and has been dining out, or rather in, on her success ever since. Greggory does pretty much nothing else, much to the exasperation of her dad (Gary Cole). But when a local trainer dies, Greggory has an unusual shot at redemption; there’s a six-figure reward mooted if she can train young hopeful Maggie (Hayley Lu Richardson). But an intense rivalry with a fellow coach (Sebastian Stan) threatens to derail the sisters as they go for gold…
The Bronze seems to mock those who don’t make first place; Greggory is a vile character, constantly mulling over tapes of her own performance, while only paying lip-service to the idea of helping her charge. Greggory even sabotages Maggie by drugging her protein shake with cannabis; she’s a reprehensible, unlikable character that’s hard to find any empathy with. It’s a Duplass brothers production, so it’s a study of loser-psychology that aims to deflate sports cliches rather than invigorate them.
And yet the redemption story of The Bronze isn’t a complete bust; if you can handle the sexual detail in the dialogue, and a truly shocking seduction scene between two gymnasts that genuinely pushes the boundaries in terms of depictions of sex well past Team America levels, at least Buckley and Rauch are trying to push past norms and say something about the awfulness of human nature. While The Bronze is an unedifying spectacle, it at least suggests that there’s much more to Rauch than her airy sitcom role might suggest.