Serious and plot-driven
Oh, hello! It’s been a while. Like. Almost 6 months. And I’m about to review a movie I saw in theatres in December. But the point is, I’m here, okay? I’m reviewing a movie. I’m taking time out of my life to REVIEW a MOVIE.
I, Tonya is, of course, based on the true story of Tonya Harding’s steady climb to the top of the figure skating world, her 15 minutes of fame, and her wickedly quick fall back to rock bottom. I’ll be the first to say that I am not usually a fan of sports films, biographical or otherwise, but I, Tonya was definitely the exception to this rule.
I absolutely adored the format they went with for this film. It was shot in a documentary-like format starring Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding, Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gilooly, and my personal favourite, Allison Janney as LaVona Golden (Tonya’s mother). It kind of bounces back and forth between Tonya’s truth and Jeff’s truth while interspersing interesting and often contradictory commentary by LaVona, Tonya’s trainer, Jeff’s friend (and an international terrorism expert, according to him and him alone). The movie starts by framing Tonya as a total victim of circumstance – an abusive mother who is callous and condescending from the ripe age of 4 onwards, a father who left while Tonya cried in his rearview mirror for him to take her with him, and low socioeconomic status that bled into every arena of her life, skating included. While it doesn’t necessarily ‘side’ with Tonya Harding’s recount of the controversial 1994 events, it definitely doesn’t let her off the hook either. The film makes it very, very clear that the details of the crime are not and probably will never be completely known.
The atmosphere is light while covering relatively dark subject matter – domestic abuse, restraining orders, child abuse, abandonment issues, death threats, class prejudice… I was aware that what happened to Nancy Kerrigan was awful, that Tonya Harding’s life was not easy, and yet, I still found myself laughing. LaVona Golden is portrayed as an absolutely wretched individual but you can’t look away, you want to see more of her, you want to hear her voice and see her giant Sophia-from-Golden-Girls glasses and her bowl cut more and more.
I don’t know what it is about this movie but I loved it. I thought it should have been a Best Picture candidate, especially if Three Billboards was in the running. I think it’s because it does such a good job of showing completely biased material and making sure the audience is totally aware that some of these events are matters of opinion, some may have happened and some may not have occurred at all.
Margot Robbie portrayed Harding as a totally misguided, bull-headed woman who, while she made history by being the first American woman to land a triple-axel in competition, is also sorely misguided and has super-skewed morals. Did she play a part in Kerrigan’s injuries or did she not? I don’t know if we’ll ever really know for sure, but I think it’s safe to say it’s a strong possibility and either way, Gillespie did a great job with this portrayal of Tonya’s story.