PUBLISHED MARCH 2018
TONYA Harding was at one time one of the most famous people in the world thanks to her career as a figure skater and then the ‘incident’. I, TONYA (2017) stars Margot Robbie in the title role during the run up and the aftermath of the infamous assault on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. Directed by Craig Gillespie, best known for 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 view on the past. On several occasions, Robbie speaks directly to the audience at times disputing whatever claim is being made against Tonya.
To be quite frank, the least entertaining part of I, TONYA is the assault on Nancy 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 future abusive relationship 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 LaVona Fay Golden berating her daughter show their relationship with brutal honesty. But 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 hilarious on occasion. Perhaps it’s the crude language or maybe it’s the delivery from Allison Janney – regardless, she wholeheartedly deserves that Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
The supporting cast of the film are also incredibly compelling, even the ones playing the most pathetic of characters. Sebastian Stan playing 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. But the way Stan can quickly flip from the miserably feeble husband into an abusive figure in Tonya’s life is incredibly intense. And towards the end of their relationship, the connection between the two rots and withers until the violence quickly escalates.
But one of the most underrated aspects of the film comes from the pathetically hilarious portrayal of Shawn Eckhardt, Tonya’s self-appointed bodyguard. Throughout the film he maintains that he’s an undercover intelligence operative, despite still living with his parents and spends his day either with Jeff or at a local strip club. The delivery of his lines from Paul Walter Hauser are incredibly humorous. But that seems to be a common theme throughout I, TONYA. 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’.
Overall, I, TONYA leaves many things to think about once the credits roll. Tonya Harding became the butt of many jokes worldwide thanks to the incident. Perhaps she deserved them, especially for the brutal assault on Kerrigan. But it does inspire a sense of sympathy for her also after witnessing the abuse she suffered at the hands of her Mother and Husband. Although I, TONYA does not quite excuse the attack, it offers multiple opinions and view points of that time and Harding’s career. It’s eye opening, visceral and completely entertaining.
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