Knowing her only as the sweetheart character Bernadette Rostenkowski on the long running CBS comedy sitcom The Big Bang Theory, I was really only used to seeing Melissa Rauch as Howard Wolowitz’s cutie pie significant other. Then I saw the trailer for her new film, The Bronze, which she also co-wrote with her brother Winston, and I was completely floored by the foul mouth on the main character of the R rated movie. As a result, I knew I had to see this movie as soon as possible.
I think there’s an almost dirty thinking to want to see the more wholesome seeming actresses take on something more taboo and risque. I know my head turned when the at the time Princess Diaries actress Anne Hathaway went and did the Latino gangster film Havoc and bared all. I know it’s a cliched hetero male thing to clamour for these things but for me, I wasn’t a fan of Hathaway at all and wanted to see how she performed outside of her element and this was the first of a strong character acting career for the soon to be Oscar winner. Did I expect this from Rauch in The Bronze? No, but the change of pace and tone really intrigued me in the exact same way.
The Bronze is the story of former gymnast and bronze medal winner Hope Ann Greggory (Rauch), a one time America’s Sweetheart who now freeloads off her father (Gary Cole) and her celebrity status in her hometown of Amherst, Ohio. A crass, undereducated and abrasive woman, Hope’s baser thoughts on herself are very obvious with her first appearance on the screen, pleasuring herself while watching the video of her winning her prized medal, a great set up to her self involved demeanor. Then, dressed in her U.S.A. track suit, she goes about her day, stealing money from her father’s mail truck and going on a daily shopping spree.
When Hope’s former coach commits suicide, Hope finds herself put in the position to claim half a million dollars from the will but it comes with a price. She must continue coaching her former teacher’s new project, the plucky and innocent “Mighty” Maggie Townsend, played by the scene stealing Haley Lu Richardson, with the goal to get her to the upcoming Toronto Olympics. Enlisting the help of the gym owner Ben (Silicon Valley and Nelson, British Columbia’s own Thomas Middleditch), whom she bitingly nicknames Twitchy, Hope hatches her internal secret plan of sabotaging Maggie and retaining the hometown hero status for herself.
The Bronze definitely follows a formula of horrible characters that you aren’t supposed to love but then, eventually, soften up and become the person you root for. Kind of like a better version of the many times Danny McBride has done this, whether it be in his karate instructor film Foot Fist Way or the HBO series Eastbound and Down. The difference here is people that know Rauch’s work before this are predisposed to love her and with some of these fantastic lines she spouts throughout the film, how could you not love this insulting and spoiled character.
The Rauch’s wrote a crassly hilarious script that really lets these comedic actors play to their advantages. Gary Cole’s doting and encouraging love for his horrible offspring is so endearing, bringing some of my favorite of his qualities to the role, while Middleditch brings that great nervous awkwardness that plays hilariously with the character’s twitches. The other notable is definitely Sebastian Stan as the antagonist to Hope, a former gold and silver medalist that was also a former fling of hers in the glory days. Stan’s nice guy to villainous arrogance in the role plays great in this film, as he is fast becoming a real favorite of mine in comedic roles.
I would also be totally remiss if I didn’t mention the sex scene in the movie, one of the most insane sequences I have ever seen in a comedy film. The circumstance around it and the choreography involved with it totally baffled me and left my jaw on the floor to the actual execution of it all. Really, it might be the biggest selling point of the film to an adult audience. I really don’t feel like I’m overselling it when I say that Team America: World Police filmmakers Trey Parker and Matt Stone might look at this and say “well, we’ve definitely been bettered in this department.” This isn’t to say that it involves scatalogical humor, but just the physicality it the scene is something I have never seen before.
Looking at other reviews for this film heading into it, I feel like other critics have been incredibly harsh on it. Are we all sick of the antihero character that we immediately write off an unlikable lead character comedy film? I think it’s very unfair when it comes to a film like The Bronze because I thought it was very original to play on the American love for their Olympic heroes and puts a woman in the driver’s seat. With a man doing everything that Hope does in the film, it would come off as more crass than it does here but with Melissa Rauch in the role you find yourself disdaining this character but with a smile because she is just so damn good at it. Hope Ann Greggory is an uneducated and mean mess of a person that though all of her horribleness, you still want to love and that’s a sheer win for good character writing. I really liked The Bronze and award it a four out of five.