There is one positive thing you can definitely say about Tonya Harding: She truly was a talented skater. She did things no woman had done before her, and was one who truly (at times) worked hard. It is too bad she made bad choices (one in particular) and had moment after moment of bad luck.
We have all heard of the story of how Harding asked her ex husband Jeff Gillooly to help do something with her rival (and roommate) Nancy Kerrigan. It resulted, of course, with a goon clubbing Kerrigan in the leg with a baton, taking her out of competition. What is unknown are the life events that led up to the incident, and that is what much of I, Tonya is about.
Director Craig Gillespie shoots the screenplay of Steven Rodgers in an almost “mockumentary” way. We get interviews on the side from Tonya (Margot Robbie) and her ex Jeff (Sebastian Stan), as well as Tonya’s mother LaVona (Allison Janney). We see how, as a child, the young Tonya (Mckenna Grace) is beyond tortured by her mother. All of the scenes with LaVona and her daughter (both as a child and adult) are played with more than just the icy venom we know a veteran thespian like Janney can deliver. Hers is one performance that will not be forgotten anytime soon (surely an Oscar nominated one). Her LaVona is the worst mom cinema has offered since 2009’s Precious. As she grows up, Tonya does seem to find a silver lining when she meets Jeff. Sure, he is abusive, but they seem to make up shortly after (and then some). While Sebastian Stan does hold his own, there is no doubt how spectacular Margot Robbie is. It will be very difficult for her to top this performance later on in her career.
One of the things that I admit surprised me the most was how smart the movie was. There is even some fourth wall breaking that occurs, and a certain character telling us they “know what we came for”. There is also some wonderful jabs at the early 90s as well, such as trying to have a phone call in private at your friend’s house.
Parents, the movie is rated R for good reason. There is a lot of swearing (the majority from Janney), one sex scene, and some nudity in a strip club. High School and above.
While some points do tend to drag on a bit, the film was still a refreshing piece of work, and one of the funniest I have seen all year. Whether it is factually correct or not, I am not sure, but it is to Robbie’s credit that you will be watching her, and not know if it is the real Harding or not.
Overall: Four Stars ****