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Big Bang Theory actress Melissa Rauch stars as Hope Ann Greggory in her new feature film, The Bronze.

Sony Pictures Classics

3 out of 4 stars

Title
The Bronze
Written by
Melissa Rauch and Winston Rauch
Directed by
Bryan Buckley
Starring
Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole and Haley Lu Richardson
Genre
Comedy
Classification
18A
Country
USA
Language
English

What's a funny girl to do if all she's got to her name is a recurring role on a popular sitcom that is showing its age? Melissa Rauch, a.k.a. Bernadette Rostenkowski of The Big Bang Theory, needed a vehicle, so the comedian and her husband, Winston Rauch, wrote her one: The Bronze is a movie built entirely around a single comic character, the obnoxious bronze-medallist gymnast Hope Annabelle Greggory. As such, The Bronze often feels like an extended skit, but Hope is so refreshingly unladylike and the movie is so refreshingly cynical about gymnastics that the results are surprisingly amusing.

Hope, who never wears anything but a U.S. Olympic team track suit and a stars-and-stripes hair scrunchy, won her medal on a twisted ankle and has been a hometown hero ever since. Trouble is, the perpetual adolescent hasn't got a follow-up act and exists in a haze of self-regard, snorted cold medicines and junk food caged from local merchants. Her father, Stan (Gary Cole), a long-time enabler who works a mail route to pay for her many indulgences, has finally had enough and sets up a scheme that will force her to accept that her days as a competitor are over and that it's time to start coaching the cheerfully innocent newcomer, "Mighty" Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson).

With the reliable Cole and the winsome Richardson as her straight men, Rauch is pushing her foul-mouthed, bratty routine to its absolute limits until a romantic subplot intervenes in the shape of the long-suffering, young gym owner Dan (Thomas Middleditch). In parts, this light romp directed by Bryan Buckley gets so obscene, it may lose even the most sophomoric viewer – I gave up trying to follow the anatomy in a scene where Hope tells a rival coach just what exactly she'll do to his member and his mother – but the outlandishness is also funny.

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Meanwhile, The Bronze's satire of both the moronic nationalism of the Olympics and the grotesque spectacle of gymnastics in which prepubsecent girls are sexualized for the pleasure of adult judges is smart. Most of all, it is a welcome change to watch a movie in which the lovely young female protagonist swears like a sailor and does everything in her power to make you dislike her. There is an unpredictability to Hope Annabelle Greggory that gives The Bronze a certain raunchy charm.

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