I, Tonya (2017)

I've never heard of Tonya Harding (in my defence, I was born in 1994 after all the drama happened) and I couldn't care less about figure ice skating, and yet I was pretty excited about I, Tonya and I had quite high expectations, expectations the movie didn't live up to. It exceeded them. 

As I was saying, the film tells the story of US figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), the first American to complete a triple axel in competition (apparently, it's a huge deal in ice skating), focusing on the key moments in her career, her abusive relationship with her mother (Allison Janney) and her husband (Sebastian Stan) and the infamous attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver).

Part of the story isn't anything new. After all, it's the typical story of someone who stood for their dream and fought against the odds to become a somebody in their field. But it's easily one of the most interesting and fascinating stories that have been brought to the screen lately and what makes it so good for me is the way the story is told.

Director Craig Gillespie tells Tonya Harding's story through a series of interview, mockumentary-style, with the characters speaking directly to the camera and insisting that their version of the story is the correct one. Occasionally, Gillespie uses a split screen in order to emphasize how thin the concept of facts is.

Another thing that makes this different from your typical biopic is that the film often breaks the fourth wall, with the characters talking directly to the audience, especially in domestic violence scenes. Someone didn't like it, they said it makes abuse look like a good thing and that it was used it to get a laugh (the latter is kinda true). In my opinion, that allowed a more deep study of Harding's character. She was so used to that violence that she almost felt nothing. Having her talking to us in those scenes, well, I think that's what really made me understand her mental state.

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Also, I did appreciate the fact that there not a single character emerges looking good from this. Sure, it's very likely you'll be sympathetic towards Tonya (I was), after all, she suffered physical and psychological abuse first from her mother and then from her husband, but she isn't completely innocent when it comes to the Nancy Kerrigan incident.

As for the performances, they are amazing. Margot Robbie disappears completely into the role of Tonya Harding, giving a performance that is funny, dramatic,  emotional and physical (I just read how hard she worked to learn the ice skating moves and I'm truly impressed). Allison Janney is superb as Harding's violent, abusive mother that does nothing other than putting her down. Her character was a bit thin though. Sebastian Stan also gives a brilliant performance as Jeff, Harding's husband: somehow he manages to make you feel sympathy towards his despicable able character. Also great is Paul Walter Hauser who plays Shawn, one of Jeff's friend, so naturally it doesn't even look like he's acting, and Bobby Cannavale manages to shine even in his little role as a reporter.

And the soundtrack is simply fantastic. Easily one of the best of the year and my favourite too.

12 comments :

  1. I really hope my theater opens this soon! Great review!

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  2. I remember this really well and Tonya was not ms. innocent my a long shot. She knew and she used it to her betterment. I felt bad for our Canadian Josee Chouinard who had to skate right after Tonya. There was so much coverage over Tonya and nancy and Tonya used the news every minute. She went out skating and screwed up and then started crying and said her laces broke so they actually let her skate again. Right after that performance poor Josee had to skate. Josee was scared and too sensitive and broke under all this crap. I can't stand Tonya and consider her a skank to be honest.

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  3. Oh, I remember this event well. I can't wait to see this. Will try to come back and comment for real when I do.

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    1. I hope you get to see it soon. Can't wait to read your thoughts about it.

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  4. Awesome review! I'm so glad you liked this movie this much, it's amazing. I was scared the mother was gonna be one dimensional but there is this scene where she is in the diner and her boss is telling her to go back to work but she says "I wanna see her face!" as she is watching Tonya perform so at least they hinted at some deeper feelings there. Loved the entire ensemble here, the bodyguard guy was absolutely hysterical.

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  5. Great review! I remember this event vaguely...I was about eight-years-old, but I definitely got caught up in the media frenzy and got my story all wrong. I'm really rooting for Margot to get that Oscar win, but it's going to be tough with Ronan and McDormand by her side...

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    1. I'm rooting for Margot too. Ronan's performance is weak though compared to hers and McDormand's.

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  6. Great review! It's such a different kind of biopic, doesn't shy from framing her abusive past but also the implications of what they did to Nancy. I'm rooting for Margot all the way this award season.

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    1. Thanks! I'm also rooting for Margot. This is one of my favorite performances ever.

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