Sundance So Far: 'The Bronze' Is No 'Whiplash,' But 'It Follows' Makes Up For It

HuffPost Entertainment has landed in Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival, which kicked off Thursday night with the premieres of the new Nina Simone documentary and the comedy “The Bronze.” We’re in the thick of Day 2, with the inaugural press screening of “Z for Zachariah” this afternoon and the world premiere of “The End of the Tour” on Friday night. In the meantime, here’s what we’ve seen so far:

“The Bronze”
Written by Melissa Rauch and Winston Rauch
Directed by Bryan Buckley

the bronze

The opening film at last year’s Sundance was “Whiplash,” which is now a Best Picture nominee. Don’t expect the same fate for “The Bronze.” “Big Bang Theory” star Melissa Rauch does her best to keep it ticking, but there’s not much gold to be found in this raunchy comedy. Playing Hope Greggory, a salty Olympic gymnast who managed to win the bronze medal despite a career-ending ankle injury, Rauch dons an acerbic Ohio accent that will make you chuckle even when the script isn’t that funny — which is most of the time. We first meet Hope masturbating to footage of her Olympic competition, and the rest of the film is like a clock chugging toward the feel-good lessons we know this remorselessly self-absorbed character will learn.

Hope begrudgingly accepts her estranged trainer’s $500,000 offer to coach the town’s next star gymnast (Haley Lu Richardson, a true delight). Knowing the new golden child will trump her fame, a predictable sabotage ensues as Hope’s patient father (Gary Cole) attempts to drill home how vainglorious his irresponsible daughter has become. Some of the jokes along the way don’t land, particularly a recurring bit about the pet goldfish her dad obsesses over. Thomas Middleditch amplifies his skittish “Silicon Valley” role as a twitching gym manager with a crush on Hope, and Sebastian Stan plays the pompous gold medalist who deflowered her years earlier. The problem is that the script’s pendulum doesn’t swing wider than foul-mouthed humor and inevitable lesson-learning. There are laughs; they just don’t come frequently enough because some of the gags feel repetitive, no matter the gifted comedic timing Rauch possesses. There is at least one scene worth the labor, though: a gymnastics-inspired assignation that is easily one of the most inventive sex scenes in film. It almost redeems some of the movie’s lesser qualities, in part because it’ll make you wonder why you hadn’t already contemplated the twisty coitus that Olympic gymnasts would have.

“What Happened, Miss Simone?”
Directed by Liz Garbus

nina simone

Nina Simone’s life took her from the segregated South to Carnegie Hall, from the civil-rights frontlines to new chapters in Africa, Switzerland, Paris and Holland — and it’s all on display thanks to engaging footage in Liz Garbus’ new documentary. Unfortunately, there’s an energy to Simone’s restless spirit that doesn’t quite translate to this conventional film. Revealing concert footage, including Simone’s debut at the…

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