Release date: December 8, 2017
I shall dub this a mixed media film. This picture used “interviews”, voiceover, along with being a dramatic biopic.
I, Tonya is a retelling of Tonya Harding’s (played by Margot Robbie) life. It starts when she is 4 and starts training in figure skating. The movie paints a very colorful picture of Tonya and her life as it shows her various abusive relationships and the events leading up to and immediately following the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.
I knew very little of the whole Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident going into the film… which is probably helpful in my perception of the film. Anyways, I kinda actually thought Tonya hit Nancy herself with a wrench…turns out that’s not quite right. But back to that point later.
As a film, this was very good. The acting was phenomenal. Margot did an excellent job of not only of hiding her Australian accent, but of portraying someone so “colorful” all while managing to figure skating to some degree (CGI anyone?) Tonya’s abusive and sometimes loving, but mostly insane husband was played by Sebastian Stan who I just realized plays Bucky in Captain America (What!? #mindblown). He’s a very transformative actor. Lastly, LaVona Golden, Tonya’s vulgar, angry, and eccentric mother was played by Allison Janney. She did suuuuuuch a great job.
All of these characters had such a great depth to them. At different points in the movie you empathized with each one of them. But at the end of the day, the movie is called I, Tonya for a reason.
The director, Craig Gillespie, did a great job of making her life seem tragic and making you feel sorry for her. We witness *SPOILER ALERT* her mother literally throw a knife at her, her husband beat her up so many times, and the countless competitions where she is unfairly judged. She never graduated from high school, so in the end, when she is forced to resign from figure skating forever, we feel the weight of her losing the only thing she ever knew how to do.
There is a point at the end of the movie where during one of her “interviews” she takes aim at the audience. She’s talking about the abuse she experienced, but then talks of the continued abuse in connection to what happened with her and Nancy Kerrigan, “but this time by you.” How we, the world, can’t stop talking about her part in it. And ultimately, how it ruined her life.
It is interesting how this movie depicted a Tonya where nothing is ever her fault. *SPOILER ALERT* She didn’t win because the judges think she’s a redneck, she didn’t know anything about the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, and her laces broke…none of it her fault.
I loved the style of this picture. It uses interview style shots with various characters talking directly to the camera. “Found footage” type scenes as if we are watching news interviews that have been recorded on a VHS. Mostly, the film is the style of a biopic. It’s during these parts where the characters on a few occasions break the 4th wall. Typically, I HATE that, but it works in this movie, due to its mockumentary nature.
The problem I have with this movie is its directness to the audience that what we are seeing is the truth.
I left the theater stuck on the question of how they know that is exactly what happened. If I look at the film as just a movie and story it was great, but if I’m supposed to believe Margot Robbie’s Tonya Harding and her statement at the end, “It’s the truth,” then I’m conflicted.
As with most “based on a true story” type movie’s they have short summaries about each character at the end of the movie. This was also accompanied by real life clips of the people portrayed as well as the infamous triple axle at the 1991 US Figure Skating Championships. These clips are extremely accurate compared to the casting and style of this film. Was this done to provide the audience with a sense of validity to what we just watched?
I don’t know.
Oscar Buzz: I hope for some acting nominations! Allison Janney, please! I can see an adapted screenplay nom, but that confuses me. Maybe costume design??