Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson
Director: Craig Gillespie
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Based on the unbelievable, but true events, I, TONYA is a darkly comedic tale of American figure skater, Tonya Harding, and one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with an infamous, ill-conceived, and even more poorly executed attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan. Featuring an iconic turn by Margot Robbie as the fiery Harding, a mustachioed Sebastian Stan as her impetuous ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, a tour-de-force performance from Allison Janney as her acid-tongued mother, LaVona Golden, and an original screenplay by Steven Rogers, Craig Gillespie’s I, TONYA is an absurd, irreverent, and piercing portrayal of Harding’s life and career in all of its unchecked–and checkered–glory.
As someone who was not alive during the events that took place in this movie, I was curious to see how everything played out from the perspectives of those involved. I, Tonya, through its powerhouse performances by Robbie and Janney, shows just how absurd yet sympathetic Tonya’s (Robbie) situation was from early childhood to her post-skating career.
The film starts off by telling us that all of the personal accounts will contradict one another, but this adds to the legend of how crazy this story was. Seeing the story be told from one person’s and then a quick cut to another character saying that those events never happened shows us that we will never find out what truly happened in Tonya’s life, because nobody will admit to what is actually the truth and they are saying to make themselves look better. Something that helps make the film feel more realistic is at the end, they show clips from the actual interviews that these people gave. This really helps dispel the idea that some of these people, particularly Tonya’s bodyguard Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser), cannot possibly be as stupid as he was portrayed, but then the real clips role at the end and you realize that this is not a work of fiction and that these people were actually this stupid. Regarding the story, it does an amazing job of making you feel horrible for Tonya. From the amount of abuse she suffered from her mother (Janney) and her husband (Stan), to the public scrutiny she faced from her involvement with the assault on Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), the movie focuses on Tonya’s development as a person, rather than her personal morality. It humanizes a person that for a long time, not many people had a positive opinion on. My one main flaw with this movie is the accuracy. I know this is Tonya’s story, but I would have liked to learn more about how people outside of her life reacted to her actions in a more personal way. I also do not know how true this story is due to how much information is either untrue or left out, but that fits the narrative of the movie.
Regarding the acting, Robbie, Janney, and Stan give incredible performances when they are on screen together. Their relationships are very complex and abusive, so seeing a triangle of hatred emerge shows us that all of these people view themselves as the hero of their own story. Robbie deserves the most credit for demonstrating just how complicated Tonya Harding’s life was. One scene in particular before her 1994 Olympic trial shows the person she is inside, but also the person she needs to be for the millions of people watching her. To display the range of emotions that someone like Tonya went through during her career takes an actor with incredible talent and skill, and Robbie goes above and beyond in this movie to portray the crazy and twisted life of Tonya Harding.
Overall, not only is the film thoroughly enjoyable, but it is so well acted and tells a complicated story that at one-time, captivated millions of people across the world. I do not believe we will ever learn the truth of who truly knew what happened between Tonya and Nancy, and this movie does not look to answer that question, but it was great to see the events leading up to the attack that shaped the lives of the people involved in it. Any movie that can take a perceived villain, make her the protagonist, and then make us feel bad for the struggles she went through really deserves the high praise it is getting.
Overall Score: 8.5/10