Unlikable characters do not automatically guarantee an unwatchable film (see, for example, Jason Reitman’s criminally underrated “Young Adult“). But the keys to success in such an uphill battle for sympathy lie in encouraging identification. These people are like some part of us, whether we want to admit it or not. Flawed figures allow us to embrace, and perhaps even correct, such shortcomings.
The chief issue with Bryan Buckley’s “The Bronze” is that it does not understand this fundamental truth about the prickly protagonist. Instead of placing us at eye level with Melissa Rauch’s heinous Hope, a jaded bronze Olympic medalist turned complacent hometown hero, the film puts us at a position above her. We are meant to look down at her pathetic, juvenile antics. The experience is less like watching indie cinema and more akin to reality television, complete with absurd dialogue (“Are you insane? Why are you insane?”) and hokey plot twists visible from a mile away.
Rauch gives her all to the character, constantly contorting her face into a snarl that makes infinitely meme-worthy Kayla Maroney look friendly. The expression would feel like an extended parody of Olympian attitudes were it not such an accurate representation of her pitch-black soul. As she selfishly tries to sabotage the chances of a potential protege, “The Bronze” adds insult to injury to the experience of watching by primarily indulging her childish whims. This might work as a teen movie, but we are watching an adult.
To be fair, “The Bronze” does earn some points in the final round by exposing a surprise and slightly enlightening motivation behind her appalling actions. But by that point, the film is so far away from the medal stand that it makes scant difference in the grand scheme of things. C+ /