The Bronze is one of, if not the most profane feature-length films anyone could think to create. Every scene and practically every minute is filled to the brim with some of the most explicit phrasing ever laid to digital celluloid, and it only works because lead actress Melissa Rauch delivers a performance unlike anything she has ever done before.
Written by Rauch and her husband, Winston, The Bronze is a story about a former Olympic gymnast who is metaphorically stuck in time. Hope (Rauch) believes her miraculous third place finish at the 2004 Olympic games has given her an excuse to never strive for anything more in life. A hometown hero who still lives with her father (played wonderfully by the critically under-appreciated Gary Cole), Hope spends her days masturbating to videos of her win, stealing money from the US Postal Service and wandering through her local mall. To many, Hope is a hero, but those people don’t know the real Hope. Like many who achieved massive success at an early age only to later fall from grace before maturing into adulthood, Hope cannot accept that she is growing older and that her claim to fame will most likely not provide a life of luxury.
Following the suicide of Hope’s Olympic coach, a letter from the now-deceased trainer arrives at Hope’s home promising a $500,000 check if she agrees to train a local gymnast, Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson) who is believed to have Olympic potential. The idea of being a coach instead of an athlete is not one that Hope enjoys, but the allure of a big payday is too good to pass up, so she begrudgingly accepts the dead woman’s offer. This is a decision that carries The Bronze into the meat of its story, which is far more heartwarming than the constant vulgar commentary from Hope might lead viewers to believe.
Running alongside the story of Hope and Maggie is the story of Hope and Ben (Thomas Middleditch), the 20-something owner of the practice facility where Hope has always trained. Ben grew up with a crush on Hope, but Hope’s delusions of celebrity have lead her to belittle Ben, which is not unlike how she treats everyone else in her life. Still, Ben believes there is good in Hope, and he cautiously tries to show her this by treating her as if she is not the most abhorrent individual in the entire state of Ohio.
Change is not easy for anyone, and for Hope it seems to be nearly impossible. Even when everyone around here is doing everything in their power to show her how much good she is capable of, Hope continues to shy away from anything that might force her to change. In her mind she has been untouchable since receiving her bronze medal, but that idea slowly begins to change as the narrative unfolds. Her arc is not unlike that of any other underdog story, but the constant barrage of obscenities, including one of the most hilariously ridiculous sex scenes in cinematic history, keeps things feeling fresh even when the story is at its most predictable.
It’s not hard to guess where Hope’s journey will eventually lead, but The Bronze does a good job of keeping you distracted from a glaringly obvious finale with more filth than many moviegoers may be able to handle. This is the Bad Santa or Dirty Grandpa of sports movies, and if nothing else it proves women can be just as raunchy—and funny—as men in such films. There won’t be any awards given to a movie like this, but for the right audience it will be one of the funnier films released this year.