PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — "Gymnast sex" is mentioned early on in "The Bronze," a darkly comedic look at the world of a washed-up Olympian starring and co-written by Melissa Rauch of "The Big Bang Theory," but it's not until the movie is almost finished that the audience gets a glimpse at what that might entail, and it's a doozy.
The explicit, highly choreographed simulation of two gymnasts doing their thing elicited both gasps and hearty belly laughs from the packed Sundance Film Festival premiere Thursday. The subject dominated both the Q&A and the exit chatter, and the commitment to the bit alone makes the film a must-see.
If only the rest of the movie compared to the carnal acrobatics.
Directed by Bryan Buckley (a commercial director known for his Super Bowl ads), "The Bronze" is a lively, occasionally funny portrait of a terrible human being on a dubious path to redemption, or at least something like it.
Rauch's character Hope is a foul-mouthed, scrunchie-wearing gymnast who captured America's heart after competing with a just-torn Achilles, earning a bronze medal for her efforts but losing her body in the process.
The film catches up with her about a decade later and finds her in a state of bitter arrested development, still riding whatever laurels she has left in her Amherst, Ohio, hometown, and being generally awful to everyone in the process, including, most devastatingly, her father (an excellent Gary Cole).
A series of events puts Hope in the coach's chair for a promising young talent, Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson), and Hope has to figure out whether she can ever care about anything but her own rusting glory.
Standout supporting performances aside (including Sebastian Stan as a sniveling rival), "The Bronze" wants to be shockingly dark and unsentimental, but also make us care about Hope. Both goals are only half-achieved.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr