Dark comedy demands a tricky balancing act between diametrically opposed tones. This is why films such as Election and Dick are rarities. Both are able to successfully skewer corrupt institutions while humanizing the nasty citizen monsters they produce.
Bryan Buckley's Olympic gymnastics satire The Bronze explores similar territory but does so in an aggravating and simplistic way that relegates adolescent rage and insecurity to a steady stream of curse words and sexual innuendo. It mistakes vulgarity for vision.
Hope Annabelle Gregory (Melissa Rauch) attended her mother's funeral as a baby wrapped in an American flag BABYBJ÷RN. Get it? Her family is patriotic. Two decades later she's now a burnt out former Olympian cashing in her fame for free Sbarro in Amherst, Ohio. When a new local prodigy (Haley Lu Richardson) threatens this freeloading lifestyle, Hope takes an active role in sabotaging the young woman's career.
The Bronze hopes you'll miss its razor thin story and feeble attempts at sarcastic comedy by focusing on Rauch's gleefully grotesque performance. She is indeed a tornado of arrogance, entitlement and lust created by a sport that robs young girls of their adolescence. Nearly every scene becomes a showcase for Hope to belittle her adoring father (Gary Cole) or lambast a twitchy love interest (Thomas Middleditch).
Despite her horrendous attitude, the filmmakers make an egregious decision to force redemption down Hope's throat, something that feels as unnatural as the blindly optimistic ending. The only scene free of all inhibitions is a rowdy sex scene that finally makes a gender segregated sport salaciously co-ed.
Opening on Friday, March 18, The Bronze reeks of desperation in its attempt to be an edgy character study. It face plants hard, failing to indict an abusive sport eager to replace its superstars with younger, dumber copies. The end result is a toothless and squishy mess that is neither funny nor scathing.
Creative Control: An independent sci-fi film set five minutes in the future that follows a marketing executive that develops mind-bending virtual reality glasses that will change everything. Opens Friday, March 18, at the Ken Cinema.
Eye in the Sky: Aaron Paul and Helen Mirren star in this tense thriller about a military drone operation targeting an Islamist terrorist that could produce collateral damage.
Hello, My Name is Doris: A self-help seminar helps a 60-something woman (Sally Field) gain the courage to pursue a romantic relationship with a younger man.
Miracles From Heaven: After experiencing a terrible accident, a young girl’s rare digestive disorder is miraculously cured. Opens Wednesday, March 16.
The 23rd San Diego Latino Film Festival: This 11-day event showcases the best in Latino film, including special showcases on Colombia, documentary and LGBTQ cinema. Screens through Sunday, March 20, at the AMC Fashion Valley Cinemas and Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Bronze: A former Olympic medalist in gymnastics coasts by on her dwindling fame while being threatened by the success of a young upstart.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant: The final part of this futuristic trilogy sends rebel Tris (Shailene Woodley) beyond the city walls and into the barren desert hoping to find salvation.
The Little Prince: A little girl meets a daring aviator and is introduced to a brand new world where anything is possible in this adaptation of the classic children’s story.
One Time Only:
Parting Glances: A gay couple living in New York City must come to grips with their impending separation while also confronting a mutual friend’s crippling AIDS diagnosis. Presented by FilmOut San Diego. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, at the Landmark Hillcrest Cinemas.
Rushmore: Wes Anderson and Jason Schwarztman’s collaboration began with this funny, snarky and sincerely moving story of a talented young man who prefers to distract himself from his education by joining every conceivable school club. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Big Short: Adam McKay gathers a superstar cast including Steve Carrell and Brad Pitt to put a darkly comedic spin on the corruption and greed the initiated the 2008 American housing crisis. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Rocky Horror Picture Show: Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon star in the movie that put cult cinema on the map. Screens at 11:55 p.m. Saturday, March 19, at the Ken Cinema.
Batman (1989) vs. Superman (1978): Jack Nicholson in face paint or Christopher Reeves in spandex? Luckily on this night, you don’t have to choose. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.