Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 9, 2021)
Known largely for a supporting role on TV’s Big Bang Theory, Melissa Rauch earned a big-screen lead with 2016’s comedy The Bronze. 12 years earlier, Hope Ann Greggory (Rauch) won a bronze medal in gymnastics. Ever since, she’s lived off her former glory in her tiny Ohio hometown, with little personal or professional growth.
Desperate for money, Hope gets an offer that promises her a $500,000 inheritance if she agrees to coach budding gymnastic star Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson). Though unenthusiastic about this, Hope agrees, so we follow their relationship.
Because I never watched Big Bang Theory, I came into Bronze unfamiliar with Rauch’s work. A look over her filmography showed that I’d seen her in projects such as Are You Here, but I maintained no memory of her.
Bronze gives me no reason to believe I’ve missed anything. If Rauch boasts comedic talent, she keeps those skills tightly under wraps in the utterly unfunny Bronze, a tired, tedious effort.
Though Hope may be a gymnast, she shows one clear inspiration: infamous figure skater Tonya Harding. With her rough-hewn demeanor and blue-collar background, Hope smells a lot like Harding – and her “stuck in the 90s” hairdo gives Hope a Tonya-esque look as well.
I guess these allusions offer the most clever aspect of Bronze, as it never manages to do much with the material. The fault lies mainly at Rauch’s feet, partly because she co-wrote the film with her husband. They pack the script with one unfunny gag after another and fail to deliver anything amusing.
Rauch also loses points due to her crude, one-note performance. Of course, Hope undergoes the inevitable “softening of her personality” as the movie progresses, but she remains crass and profane most of the time.
Another actor might bring an underlying humanity to Hope, but Rauch can’t do this. In Rauch’s hands, Hope seems persistently unlikable, and we never threaten to warm up to her. The script may intend to make her a little more warm and fuzzy, but the viewer never really feels these changes, so Hope stays off-putting.
Maybe if Rauch showed stronger comedic skills, this wouldn’t matter so much. After all, Hope’s not the first inherently unlikable lead in a movie like this.
Rauch simply lacks the talent to pull off the intended humor, though, so we’re left with an annoying character who can’t make us laugh. We don’t laugh with her or at her – we just dislike her.
Perhaps if Bronze went for a more satirical bent, it may’ve been more successful. A film like this screams “mockumentary” – that kind of effort might have become more enjoyable.
As it stands, The Bronze goes for more of a Billy Madison feel but without a skilled comedic actor in the fore. The film focuses on cheap, tacky raunch with no humor to be found.