Friday, January 5, 2018

I, Tonya: Movie Review


Uproariously entertaining with astute insight into Tonya Harding.
Craig Gillespie, director of I, Tonya, opts for a comedic breaking-the-fourth-wall type biopic where characters in mid-action will either deny or confirm what they’re currently doing. When Tonya has a rifle aimed at ex-husband Jeff’s head, she says she didn’t do it. When Jeff slams Tonya’s fingers in the car door, he says he didn’t do it. But you know they did do most of it. The style works for a too-crazy-to-be-true true story. 2017

Directed by: Craig Gillespie

Screenplay by: Steven Rogers

Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser

What’s outstanding about the telling of this story is that it is uproariously entertaining while giving astute insight into Tonya Harding about having a personality (a born and bred personality) that does not fit her passions. This is the story of a girl born to a mother (Allison Janney) who had as many children as husbands, zero patience, extreme arrogance and ample attitude and no money. She grew up hunting, believing she was worthless and fighting everyone and everything because she didn’t know any other way of life. Inexplicably, she loved figure skating and was good at it.

My favourite line of the movie comes from a beleaguered figure skating judge after an irate Tonya badgers him demanding to know why she doesn’t get the marks she deserves. “Figure skating is never just about the skating, it’s also about presenting the image of having a good, wholesome, American family.” “But I don’t have a good, wholesome family.”

How much of the animosity did Tonya bring on herself? One gets the sense that Tonya Harding herself grapples with that question a lot. Now of course Tonya in the film says nothing was her fault. She’s the one who gets beaten regularly by her mother and her teen boyfriend turned first husband, but she does fight back. Despite the extreme family dysfunction and domestic violence, it’s an enjoyable movie from beginning to end because Tonya sticks up for herself and is just as fiery and determined as those trying to bring her down.

Margot Robbie is brilliant as Tonya. A backwoods scrapper trying to desperately mold herself into the perfect princess that figure skaters are supposed to be. A girl who successfully rids herself of her vicious mother but never quite gets rid of her abusive husband who has the charm to pull her back when he calls her pretty. That’s an example of how this movie succeeds – her mother has to take a back seat once Tonya realizes that her mother’s version of her is not the type of girl she wants to be, but her husband does see her as a beautiful, talented competitor that she wants to be and despite tearing her down he also wants to do whatever it takes to help her succeed.

First and foremost, I, Tonya is a comedy. It tells a story of two idiots that you think their version of the story just might be true, but then you also have to think can anybody really be this stupid?

The film is based on very conflicting real life interviews by Tonya Harding and ex-husband Jeff Gillooly discussing their version of the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. The film (as I think would be impossible to do otherwise) mostly sides with Tonya. Jeff and his best friend Shawn (quite possibly the most delusional moron on the planet) conduct a plan that gets way out of hand because of their (mostly Shawn’s) idiocy.

Ultimately this is a story with many sides and I, Tonya attempts to give Tonya a fair shake – something that Skate America never gave her.
Best of 2017