Review: Spoiled Olympic star grows up in ‘The Bronze’
Hope Ann Greggory is a pistol.
She is also obnoxious, ungrateful, spoiled, narcissistic, foul-mouthed, spiteful, mean and shockingly agile and acrobatic when it comes to sexual relations, which it does a ways into “The Bronze.” Hope Ann's sex scene is simply deliriously daffy.
But so is much of “The Bronze,” which was produced and co-written by Melissa Rauch (“The Big Bang Theory”), who also stars as Hope Ann. In a world teeming with raunchy, test-the-limits comedies, “The Bronze” sticks out not so much because it avoids gross-out jokes, but because it does such a long slow reveal of the scared, insecure person hidden inside Hope Ann. And, let's be honest, because of that sex scene.
In 2004 Hope Ann, from tiny Amherst, Ohio, was on the U.S. Women's gymnastics team, competing at the Olympics, when she suffered a terrible injury. But Hope Ann soldiered on, earning a bronze medal and becoming America's sweetheart.
But that was a decade ago. Now Hope Ann still walks around Amherst in a red,white and blue sweat suit, taking freebies from local merchants, cursing like two sailors, and mooching off her too patient father (Gary Cole). She's dismissive of everyone not in her mirror.
Then an opportunity — or a danger — arises. The promise of a fortune is dangled in front of Hope Ann if she can coach a young Amherst gymnast (Haley Lu Richardson) to the Olympics. The fortune would be nice, of course, but if the new girl becomes famous, Hope Ann will lose her status as the town's sweetheart.
At first Hope Ann sets out to undermine her protege, but an encounter with an old gymnast frenemy (Sebastian Stan) turns things around, and soon Hope Ann, with the help of an enamored, slightly spastic gym owner (Thomas Middleditch), is on her way back to the Olympics.
Hope Ann can be hard to take — Rauch sets her on high shrill right from the start, machine-gunning insults, complaints and inappropriate behavior in every direction. And she's a fountain of wrong ideas and misguided statements. But once you settle in with her, and as Rauch lets down the defenses, she is indeed a winning character.
Rauch co-wrote “The Bronze” with her husband, Winston; let's hope they have other ideas cooking. “The Bronze” is a fiercely independent comedy, sure to be too startling for some, but that's its great promise. This world needs more pistols with this kind of firepower.
Tom Long is the former film critic for The Detroit News.
Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout and some drug use
Running time: 108 minutes