By Jake Howell

Sundance Review: THE BRONZE

It was unreasonable to expect the opening night U. S. Dramatic film would play as well as 2014’s electric Whiplash for a curtain-raiser to Sundance. Still, the festival has begun, and there are already titles buzzing with “must-see” status (having been turned away from The Witch this morning, which is receiving rave twitter reviews, I am already playing catch-up).

Still, there are some thematic similarities between that film and this year’s regrettable opener, The Bronze, a film that is centered around wanting to be the very best at something – or at least remembered appropriately for it.

Written by Melissa and Winston Rauch and directed by Bryan Buckley, The Bronze is a clichéd and predictable sports-competition film that you’ve seen a million times: from Bring It On to Air Bud, this film follows beat-for-beat the narrative of training for an important competition, and it’s up to the denouement to see if our protagonists come out on top.

But what’s different here from most sports films is the script and writing tone, which is an obnoxious filth-fest and a poor Diablo Cody imitation (think Young Adult, but while snorting an accelerant). Co-writer Melissa Rauch plays Hope Ann Greggory, a has-been bronze-medal gymnast clinging to her former glory in a small town still willing to celebrate her ten years later. Hope steals, she swears, she offends, she goes on detailed and painfully specific rants about … taints. She punches her protective and concerned father (Gary Cole) in the face. She needs a job, and she’s predictably offered one in the form of the redemption trope: train an up-and-coming younger, cuter gymnast to compete in a world-class event, and will Hope be able to restrain her explosive, caustic personality in the process? Will she find true love in her awkward co-trainer (“Silicon Valley”‘s Thomas Middleditch)?

I’ve never been a huge fan of Diablo Cody, so those who are may enjoy this knock-off piece of priss. But Cody’s work is at least nuanced, and narratively The Bronze is just all very obvious. And while playing to a successful formula will net a film decent points with a broad audience, if the jokes aren’t funny – or they simply come across as irritating, like so many of these cloying, in-your-face one-liners – then this movie sorely botches the dismount as a festival opener.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon