I, Tonya (2017)
R | 1h 59min | Biography, Drama, Sport | January 5th 2018
Synopsis: Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.
Award watch: Best Picture, Best Actress: Margot Robbie, Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney
Review: I, Tonya is an intriguing film for those who remember watching the events unfold on national TV during the 1992 Olympics or those who just want an unbelievable plot line with award worthy performances. Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) is a young lady who lived three lifetimes all before her 23rd birthday. Emotional, head shaking, and more than once laugh out loud hilarious; this is a gold medal effort.
The film starts with a few flashback moments of a tiny Tonya owning the ice under the watchful eye of her abusive mother (Allison Janney). Audiences will take no time in figuring out that this little girl had nothing close to a normal childhood. The movie moves quickly into the Tonya that we know from the tabloids and sports moments. Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) and Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser) become prominent news items in their attempts to harm skating contender Nancy Kerrigan. Here we get a better idea of their motivation and high level of stupidity. Seriously, you can’t write anything this absurd.
Smart script writing from Steven Rogers is another powerful component. Actual transcripts from the multiple interviews with the real life characters help ground the film in reality – if that is possible – and secure the authenticity. The conversations that Gillooly and Eckhardt have rival anything the Dumb and Dumber films ever offered. There is no doubt that Rogers knew he had found gold as he read through some of the original transcripts.
Tonya is not innocent by any means but at the same time you can’t help but feel for her. Everyone in her life abused her mentally, verbally, and physically. Here was a young lady with an extraordinary talent. She loved skating and knew she could be an Olympic champion. Sadly she had people in her life who were more harm than good. If left alone there is no telling what she would have accomplished.
Margot Robbie is spectacular in this role. She captures the grit, determination, and rough exterior that is Tonya Harding. This was a girl who had to put up a fight and develop a defense mechanism in order to survive her home life. There was no place for softness and Robbie shows that in every look and utterance.
For those who watched the 1992 fiasco remember Nancy on the floor holding her leg and crying “why me”, the shoelace incident in which Tonya had to stop her performance, and of course the news stories that followed. All this and more are in this fantastic biopic.
I, TONYA is rated R for pervasive language, violence, and some sexual content/nudity. It is an adult film and at times hard to watch. Though a dark comedy with awkward laughs there are also heartbreaking moments as you watch Tonya’s journey. In her own words, ‘why can’t it just be about the skating?”. That would have been a life she would have loved to live. I give this 4 out of 5 triples. Everything about this film draws us in and creates a riveting narrative full of memorable characters.