ONLINE MARCH 2018
TONYA Harding was once one of the most famous people in the world thanks to her career as a figure skater and then the "incident". I, TONYA stars Margot Robbie in the title role during the run up to and the aftermath of the infamous assault on her rival Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver). Directed by Craig Gillespie, best known for the Ryan Gosling love doll romantic indie LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (2007), worked with screenwriter Steven Rogers to bring a group of unreliable narrators to the screen in a visceral way. Each person involved in Tonya’s career, including Tonya herself, all have a different take on the past. On several occasions, Robbie speaks directly to the audience, disputing whatever claim is being made against Tonya.
To be quite frank, the least entertaining part of I, TONYA is the assault on Kerrigan, mainly because that incident has been well investigated and documented. The film makes no attempt at glamorising Tonya’s life, as it shows how her abusive upbringing and abusive relationship as an adult emotionally traumatise her. Although the depictions of the various skating competitions and the Olympics are visually compelling, it is the smaller character moments that are truly electric. The scenes involving Allison Janney as the berating mother show their relationship with brutal honesty. Some of the dialogue spat from Janney’s unforgiving matriarch should categorically not be amusing but, in a completely twisted way, manage to be simultaneously horrific and hilarious. She wholeheartedly deserves that Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
The rest of the supporting cast are also compelling, even the ones playing the most pathetic of characters. Sebastian Stan's Jeff Gillooly is a far cry away from his recurring role as Bucky Barnes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Gillooly is an abusive husband who downplays his violent misogyny as an older man being interviewed later in his life. The way Stan quickly flips from a miserably feeble husband into an abusive figure in Tonya’s life is incredibly intense.
One of the most underrated aspects of the film comes from the pathetically hilarious portrayal of Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser), Tonya’s self-appointed bodyguard. He maintains that he is an undercover intelligence operative, despite still living with his parents and spending his day either with Jeff or at a local strip club. The humorous delivery of lines seems to be a common theme throughout the film. The comedic timing from the majority of the cast is consistently well placed and does not take anything away from the bulk of the "story".
I, TONYA leaves many things to think about once the credits roll. While Tonya Harding became the butt of many jokes worldwide, the film invites sympathy for her as we witness the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother and husband. Although I, TONYA does not excuse the Kerrigan attack, it offers multiple opinions and view points of that time and Harding’s career. It is eye opening, visceral and completely entertaining.
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