July 23, 1996. Atlanta, Georgia. The Women's Gymnastics Team Finals. The American women had never won team gold. They were, however, slightly ahead of the Russian team heading into the last rotation in the team competition. American gymnast Dominique Moceanu failed to stick the landing on either of her vault attempts. Then, her teammate Kerri Strug also fell – and injured her ankle. With the Russians performing in the floor exercise event at the same time, the competition between the two teams was so close that the American women's coach, Béla Károlyi, told Strug that they needed her to make her second vault to secure the gold medal. Strug limped to the start of her approach, then she sprinted down the mat, sprung over the vault and
stuck the landing! Strug then began hopping on her good leg as she saluted the judges before collapsing to the mat in pain. She had to be helped off the mat and later carried by Károlyi to the medal stand. U.S. Women's Gymnastics had their first team gold in Olympic history and Kerri Strug was a national hero. It's this story that inspired "The Bronze" (R, 1:48), but that's all that Strug's heroic act of self-sacrifice has in common with this embarrassment of a movie.
At the 2004 Summer Olympics, American gymnast Hope Annabelle Greggory (Melissa Rauch, from TV's "The Big Bang Theory") suffered an injury during the Women's Team Competition, but still managed to perform in her final event, helping the U.S. to a team bronze. She spent the next dozen years in her small hometown of Amherst, Ohio (30 miles west of Cleveland) living off her fifteen minutes of fame, in the home of her devoted widowed father (Gary Cole), depending on him for most of her support. She also gets free meals at the mall food court, has a reserved parking space in front of the town diner and she wears her USA warm-up suit everywhere. Hope's glory days – correction, glory day is an Olympic-sized cow and she is milk-ing-it! This might not be so bad if she were a decent person, but she's rude, foul-mouthed, promiscuous, dumb, self-centered and meanest to those who care about her the most.
Certain circumstances arise that convince Hope to train another rising Amherst gymnast by the name of Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson) and make sure she's prepared for the upcoming Olympics. This puts Hope back in contact with an awkward, but sweet local guy named Ben (Thomas Middleditch) who co-owns the gym where Hope is training Maggie – and back in conflict with an old enemy, former Olympic Men's Gymnastics Gold Medal Winner Lance Tucker (Sebastian Stan) who is now a fellow Olympic Women's Gymnastics coach. Besides clashing with Lance and being mean to Ben, Hope's jaded and selfish personality contrasts greatly with Maggie's innocent enthusiasm, but Maggie and her hard-working single mother (SNL's Cecily Strong) are grateful to have her services. Hope herself ends up having more at stake in this scenario than she ever imagined – including her own hometown hero status.
"The Bronze" is rarely funny and often ridiculous. In the hands of more talented comedic actresses, this might have been an entertaining movie, but as it stands, Hope's steady stream of profanities, unladylike antics and self-aggrandizing behavior just come across as comedy by pummeling. (Or maybe, given this movie's subject matter, comedy by
pommeling.) The script, written by the film's star and her husband, Winston Rauch, is content to portray hope as an unlikeable, one-dimensional character through most of the movie and first-time feature film director Bryan Buckley (known mostly for short films and Super Bowl commercials) is unable to tease much that is worthwhile out of his actors or the script. Worse yet, he allows some of his main characters to speak in an accent that I have never heard anywhere between the Ohio River and Lake Erie, and the only well-directed action in the movie is not on the mat, but in a graphic sex scene late in the movie that feels dropped in out of nowhere. Propped up by only a few laughs and a little sweetness, this film couldn't even win bronze in a two-movie competition. "D"