by Virginia Saenz McCarthy
After a long travel day from Oakland, CA to Park City, UT, my fabulous 18 Saint Mary’s College students and I finally settled into our condos eagerly anticipating our first full day at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. I managed to get to bed at 2:30am and awoke at 7:30am. I knew a few of my students had scored wait list numbers – tickets not guaranteed – to the 9:00AM screening of THE BRONZE. At 8:25am – without a wait list number – I impulsively decided to head to the Eccles Theater to see if I could get into the film.
Time is of the essence at Sundance, and the obstacles I had to face trying to make it to the Eccles in time to even have a chance of getting to the wait list line were slim to none. Long wait for the shuttle bus. Tick Tock. Once on the bus, decided to try a “hail mary” short cut maneuver, so jumped off the bus at Sundance headquarters – halfway to Eccles, but a long ride on the bus – and headed off on foot. Tick Tock Tick Tock. Having attended the festival for 21 years now – bringing students for 18 years – I knew a short cut that involved crossing a parking lot (Tick), walking around the side of a commercial business building over a frozen, slippery pathway worn by sneaks like me (Tock), and then skittering through a small break in a residential wooden fence that surrounds an apartment complex (Tick). Through the fence, still had to traverse a slick, frozen over pathway along the fence line (Tock), then up a freshly created footpath in the snow over a small hill to get to a sidewalk (Tick), then a parking lot and driveway (Tock), then to the pedestrian light in front of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Seminary (Tick), then to Park City high school where the Eccles is located. Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Finally, the light changed after what felt like 2 minutes and I crossed the street, and hustled across yards and yards of concrete to finally get to the coveted wait list chamber door. I stepped inside the dark, cavernous holding area and was immediately greeted by a Sundance volunteer who told me that they would no longer be letting anyone into the theater. However, across the room, I could see that there were 4 people in the line where 3 other volunteers were standing, so I asked if he would mind if I went over and joined them in case a seat came available. He said: “Sure, go ahead.” Off I sped, and just as I reached them, the young woman in charge said: “We have 5 seats available.” Yes!!!! I was the 5th of the last 5 people who made it into the screening!!!! My first Sundance miracle!!
Within the first moments of the THE BRONZE, I realized that what I had thought would be a dramatic film was in fact a side-splitting, comedy shocker. Tonally, think DODGE BALL meets GROUNDHOG DAY meets a teaspoon of NAPOLEAN DYNAMITE and a dash of TEETH. This is a squirm in your seat, crack a rib laughing, “I can’t believe she said “THAT”! comedypallooza. Hope Ann Greggory – age 25-ish and a former Olympic bronze medalist on the women’s gymnastics team, is stuck in her past glory, embittered and living in her overly indulgent father’s basement. Hope, played brilliantly by co-writer of the film Melissa Rauch, is a girl you just want to back slap and throw over your knee for a good long spankfest. She is a BRAT!! A completely narcissistic, selfish, offensive little hater AND the hometown hero and only celebrity of tiny little Amherst, Ohio. So, unfortunately, not only does Hope’s daddy indulge her every selfish whim, but the whole town indulges Hope. Like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, Hope is in for a long overdue personality makeover…. or death and destruction, and that is the tension that drives the plot and keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. The trial of fire comes in the form of an unwanted opportunity for Hope to train the Bambi-sweet and adorable character of Olympic hopeful Maggie Townsend, a high schooler and super talented gymnast. Of course, Hope sets out immediately to crush and sabotage the guileless and gullible Maggie’s dreams in order to protect her coveted status as the town’s local hero. The script is brilliant with unexpected twists and gut-wrenching turns, smart, crass, in-your-face dialogue, and biting humor, and one of the most hysterical sex scenes I have ever seen. I left the theater feeling that THE BRONZE deserves a Gold Medal and – if it has not already found a distributor – I am sure it will be one of the first films to sell at the festival and will be a huge audience pleaser among indie comedy fans.