Melissa Rauch & Sebastian Stan’s ‘Bronze’ Sex Scene Gets Tons of Buzz at …

24 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Big Bang Theory’ star’s gymnastic sex scene scores a ’10’ at Sundance.

Sundance’s unlovely tendency to empty the lavatories in First Class at 30,000 feet over Flyover Country is in evidence with “The Bronze,” a mean-spirited and largely witless satire of an Olympic gymnast who has Kerri Strug’s grit but Tonya Harding’s personality.

The 31st installment of North America’s preeminent showcase for independent cinema kicked off Thursday night in a torrent of female genitalia jokes, toilet humor, and an inspired flourish of gymnastic sex.PARK CITY, Utah — A hilarious acrobatic sex scene in The Bronze had everyone doubling over with laughter during the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.PARK CITY, Utah – John Cooper, Sundance’s director, was trying to introduce “The Bronze,” this year’s big opening-night feature, but members of the Eccles Theater audience were not done chatting.In the cranky, foul-mouthed tradition of bad grandpas, bad teachers, bad Santas and so forth, “The Bronze” unveils yet another vinegar-spirited comedic antihero: the bad sport. Variety described one scene between Rauch and co-star Sebastian Stan as “one of the raunchiest sex sequences in movie history,” noting it involves “pole vaults, cartwheels and pirouettes.” Mashable panned the film, but said the sex scene was “a perfect 10.” While The Slanted raved about the film and said the scene has “everything from tumbles, to vaults to cartwheels thrown into the mix to create one of the funniest/raunchiest events you could hope for.” The Bronze was co-written by Rauch and her husband, Winston Rauch.

That is, sex literally involving gymnastics during which the actors perform back flips, splits, and pommel-horse dismounts onto and off of each other’s naked bodies. The film is about a former gymnast who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics and won’t let anyone forget it, even though she now lives in her dad’s basement in a small Ohio town and is an obvious has-been. The Bronze, the first feature from noted television commercial director Bryan Buckley, is under the misapprehension that this is all you need for a two-hour film.

Co-written by and starring The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch as a frightful creature who makes Melissa McCarthy’s trademark characters look like the quintessence of elegant sophistication, the film stews in the bile of a small-town former gymnastics medalist who’s lived in the past ever since and feels the need to spread her misery to everyone she encounters. Catapulting herself into the public eye, “The Big Bang Theory’s” Melissa Rauch stars as Hope Ann Greggory, an Olympic has-been who’s ridden the celebrity of her third-place gymnastics medal about as far as it will take her. But this crowd was not in a cooperative mood – right down to the reception of the film. “The Bronze” had a lot of momentum going into Thursday night’s premiere. Fans of the comedy of meanness and pure gross-out humor will provide a certain commercial base, although the film could easily use at least 10 minutes removed to cut down on the redundant jokes and scenes.

While commercial enough to go the distance, Rauch’s caustic character sketch feels similarly over-stretched, landing easy laughs over and over with the same joke: a twisted take on the sort of America’s sweetheart even Tonya Tarding couldn’t tarnish. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz stick the landing in the bedroom, the actress revealed that she used a body double for the gymnastic parts of the scene.

Bitter gymnast Hope Annabelle Greggory (Rauch) engages in a prolonged, spirited and ridiculously gymnastic sex scene with fellow Olympic gymnast Lance Tucker (Sebastian Stan). But she delivers the best breakthrough comedic performance by an actress since Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids.” Her character Hope Annabelle Gregory, a bronze-medal winning Olympics gymnast from 2004 who can’t get her life together after an injury, is part Tracy Flick from “Election,” part Sue Sylvester from “Glee” and part Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation.” But Rauch makes the role fully her own. A true gymnast would appreciate the virtually impossible balancing act of trying to make audiences like a character as unrepentantly self-absorbed as Hope, a pony-tailed blonde brat whom we meet masturbating to tape of her 2004 Olympics win — in which she snatched the bronze medal from the brink of a career-ending ankle injury.

Rauch plays Hope with maximum white trash tendencies (junk food, scrunchy, bad haircut, slutty remarks) and has the character wear her Olympic warmup suit at all times as her cringing postman father (Gary Cole, in an unfortunate turn for him) encourages her to shake off the past and get a job. She carries the racy zingers (there are enough masturbation jokes to make Judd Apatow proud), as well as the vulnerable scenes (there’s a sweet romantic subplot with Thomas Middleditch). The story is a ripoff of the HBO series Eastbound & Down, but instead of a narcissistic and foul washed-up baseball pitcher, it’s a narcissistic and foul washed-up gymnast. Not every actress can handle the task as expertly as, say, Reese Witherspoon did in “Legally Blonde,” nor could most directors sell Rauch’s relatively thin range as effectively as first-time helmer Bryan Buckley.

Hope Greggory, as she is called, had a moment of international glory when she came back from a torn achilles heel during the Olympics to still win third place. Anyone who as much as talks to Hope is liable to get their heads bitten off, even if she does speak in an annoyingly harsh and squeaky voice that emerges from a thin, tightly pursed mouth. Content to while away what’s left of her youth chugging Fanta, tearing around Ohio in an immense gold Buick, and snorting lines of allergy medicine, Hope Ann is shaken from her stasis by the sudden death of her gymnastics mentor Coach P. But her instructor scolded her for her lack of commitment, saying, according to the 34-year-old Rauch, that she was “kind of old to be starting her gymnastics career.”

Writing in The Wrap, Steve Pond called it “an acrobatic hotel-room liaison so over-the-top that it’ll no doubt give the ratings board fits.” That puts it mildly. For years, she’s benefited from the largesse of local merchants who give her stuff for free, but that’s drying up now, and she hasn’t spoken with her old Coach P, who guided her to semi-glory, in a long time. To put it bluntly, Hope is “a spoiled bitch,” as it takes her impossibly patient single father (Gary Cole) nearly the entire movie to tell her: Within the film’s first reel, she crushes and snorts allergy medicine, excoriates her dad, steals random kids’ birthday-card money from the mail, bullies a friendly Sbarro employee and tells off an aspiring young gymnast, all while sporting the same 3-inch bangs, teenybopper ponytail and red-white-and-blue warmup suit she wore a dozen years earlier. The movie is foulmouthed, nasty and annoyingly condescending for its first half, but brightens up in the second half when Rauch tones down the shtick and locates a little humanity in the character, who genuinely undergoes a change of heart.

In a suicide letter, the coach pledges to leave her past-prime protégé $500,000 if Hope Ann will train 16-year-old gymnastics up-and-comer Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson) for the Toronto Games. When Coach P suddenly dies, Hope receives an offer she would love to refuse but really can’t: A letter from the deceased informs her that, if she coaches the promising Maggie and gets her on track for the upcoming Toronto games, Hope will receive $500,000. Hope Ann’s initial impulse toward Tonya Harding-like ruination for the younger gymnast compels an unusual fitness regime—casual sex, a diet of fried foods, and marijuana smoothies—but eventually gives way to serious intent. As Hope tries to escape her deadbeat existence, she starts training a young athlete named Maggie Townsend (the excellent Haley Lu Richardson), and she drags her through the same hellish hazing routine that J.K.

Tipping its hand a bit too early, the script (which Rauch penned with husband Winston) indicates exactly how things will go when Hope receives a post-suicidal letter from Coach P (Christine E. All of this merely elevates the film from the loathsome to the bearable, though, and any distributor who bets big on this no-star project will regret it. Also livening things up is Hope’s handsome ex and gold- and silver-winning gymnast, the aptly named Lance (Sebastian Stan), who swoops in to snatch Maggie from Hope’s grasp and prepare her for Toronto. Along the way, there’s a romantic subplot involving nerdy gym owner Twitchy (Thomas Middlemarch of HBO’s Silicon Valley) and Hope Ann’s ex-flame-turned-gymnastics coaching nemesis Lance (Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s Sebastian Stan) that culminates in that back-flipping sex scene. “When you’re 4″10″-and-a-half and 6’1″, you have to get creative,” Rauch said in a Q&A session after the screening, and added, “You write what you know.” But overall, The Bronze functions mostly as a showcase for tiny dynamo Rauch, who can now rightly lay claim to a new renown as America’s top female comedian under 5’ tall.

Milking her vertical challenges—and the kind of visceral jolt that comes from hearing a child-sized woman utter words such as “clit jizz”—for maximum laughs, Rauch used the Sundance spotlight to showcase herself as a kind of proto-Melissa McCarthy. This is the money scene, one that gives the term gymnastic sex new and quite literal meaning as the two go at it in a swirl of amusingly athletic positions.

Naturally, Hope despises the idea that someone from her own hometown — folksy Amherst, Ohio, where the film was actually shot — might steal her glory. So, in a montage that really ought to be funnier, Hope instructs Maggie to spend her workout sessions “visualizing” her maneuvers (instead of actually practicing them), she practically pimps her out to the nearest horny teenager she can find (an inversion of Coach P’s “no boys” rule), and she takes her around to the unhealthiest junk-food establishments in town till the poor girl develops a beer gut. (Hope’s own diet of hamburgers and Fanta Orange soda suggests that perhaps a heavier-set actress would have conveyed how rough life has been since the character quit gymnastics.) While Hope cruelly sets about trying to sabotage the absurdly compliant young athlete’s chances, two guys appear on the scene with other plans. He was stationed just outside the theater’s velvet ropes Thursday night dressed in a Simon Cowell-esque fitted black T-shirt, greeting and hugging a long-line of industry well-wishers as they left the theater.

Longtime commercials ace Bryan Buckley, whose Africa-set short Asad was Oscar-nominated in 2013, brings energy to his directorial feature debut but precious little style. There’s also an amusing (and quite randy) sex scene that finally answers the question: “How do gymnasts make love?” It’ll be well worth your time to search for this scene on YouTube in a year’s time. The two characters are a study in opposites, each motivated to see Maggie succeed, both hoping to win Hope over in the process — though only one will have the privilege, resulting in what’s sure to be the funniest (not to mention most athletic) onscreen hookup of the year. Few directors have had more practical experience coming in to their debut feature than Buckley, who’s directed more Super Bowl commercials than there have been Super Bowls, in addition to helming the Oscar-nominated short “Asad.” He’s more confident than most in terms of how to light, shoot and cut a first-time comedy, and though no one would accuse “The Bronze” of not being funny, it somehow manages not to be funny often enough.

Like the attention-hogging character she plays, Rauch has given Hope nearly all the funny lines, while expecting the rest of the cast to set up her outrageous, off-color retorts, which grows grating and a bit one-note over time. Even so, by relying on physical comedy, “Silicon Valley” star Middleditch manages to hold his own, more than earning his character’s “Twitchy” nickname as he milks the awkward fellow’s facial tic for all it’s worth. It already seems as if Buckley and the Rauch couple crack up at the very idea of the character, which imagines what kind of personality someone as adorable as pocket-sized Olympic medalist Shawn Johnson might have when the cameras aren’t rolling.

There are almost two separate concepts operating here: The first riffs on Andy Warhol’s old “15 minutes of fame” theory, speculating how glory-seekers cope once the world’s attention moves on, while the second pokes fun at anyone who derives self-importance from second-rate (or third-place) achievement. But it takes perfectionism to pull off the latter joke, whereas “The Bronze” deserves one of those feel-good green “participant” ribbons they hand out at politically correct competitions. Camera (color), Scott Henriksen; editors, James Nelson, John Nau; music, Andrew Feltenstein; production designer, David Skinner; art supervisor, Debbie Stratis; set decorator, Roxy Topirowych; costume designer, Michelle Martini; sound, Marlowe Taylor; sound designer, Chris Diebold; supervising sound editor, Steven Iba; re-recording, Jason Gaya; visual effects producer, Phil Crowe; visual effects supervisors, Grant Miller, David Lebensfeld; visual effects, Ingenuity Engine, Jogger VFX; stunt coordinator, Kristin Baskett; assistant director, Daniel Katzman; casting, Jeanne McCarthy.

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