I, Tonya

I, Tonya (2017)

I, Tonya
7.5/10 by 866 users

Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the sport is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.

Release Date:December 8, 2017
Production Company:Clubhouse Pictures, LuckyChap Entertainment, Neon
Production Countries:United States of America
Director:Craig Gillespie
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:biography, based on true story, figure skating, ice skating, winter olympic
  • Not a monster...
    January 15, 2018

    "I, Tonya" is amazing. Margot Robbie gifts a career defining performance. Margot plays disgraced 1994 US Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding. Her performance as Tonya is fearless, vulnerable, sad and poignantly flawed. Harding is notorious for knowing about the attack upon US figure skating Champion Nancy Kerrigan which led to her eventual ban from competitive skating which was her life.

    Director Craig Gillespie neither vilifies nor justifies Tonya offering the experience of being her. That she wanted to be loved, to be gotten, and to be the best. At the time Tonya was the only women's figure skater in the world to land the impossible triple axel in competition. Robbie as Tonya in an interview in the movie acknowledged when she landed the triple axel in the trials she knew, "I was the best!" Tonya was driven, the figure skating phenom, but she was less than phenom in her life. I think that is the poignancy of Gillespie's direction and Steven Rogers's story.

    "I, Tonya" is not really dark comedy. "I, Tonya" is just dark with laughs in its irony and the stupidity of those closest to Tonya. The movie is the dichotomy that defines the tragedy of domestic violence and abuse. In one scene Tonya's husband Jeff, played by convincing Sebastian Stan, slams the freezer door in Tonya's face, because she questions why he didn't buy Dove ice cream bars. That is so wrong. That makes you so angry.

    Gillespie depicts that pattern of abuse throughout of beating on screen. And Tonya takes it, and stays until she can no longer. The abuse originates with Mom LaVona, played by focused Allison Janney, who thinks she is tough love as she pushes her daughter in her skating career. No, Mom is an abuser. Janney's LaVona could have been comic caricature; instead she brilliantly nuances the single Mom working waitress raising her kid the way she was raised. Robbie is touching humanity as Tonya, who has the self awareness that she is uneducated, but she is smarter than she thinks and way smarter than those surrounding her.

    "I, Tonya" and Robbie in contrasts of edgy humor and human cruelty touchingly tells the story of how we are raised and the people we choose to spend life with either define or curse. Much about Tonya seems to be the in order to, to prove something. In the great scene before her competition her new Coach Doty, played by strong Bojana Novakovic, tells her "You show them." That I think becomes the conversation that dominates Tonya's life.

    Needing her Mom's help after she leaves husband Jeff, Tonya sees her Mom. She asks her Mom that when she was a kid, "Did you love me?" Robbie's Tonya is in tears. That breaks your heart. Really Tonya just wanted to be loved, like we all do. That may be the point of Gillespie's "I, Tonya" with all its emotional extremes and uncomfortable laughs. Perhaps, most of the laughs come from the blatant stupidity of Jeff and his idiot friend Shawn, played by good Paul Walter Hauser.

    Maybe "I, Tonya" works in its profound sadness as well. Toward the end Tonya says, "I am not a monster." No, she's not. She is just the little girl who wanted to be loved and never got it. She was driven and wanted to be the best. Tonya is just human. She is both lightness and darkness. Perhaps within "I, Tonya" are loud laughs and the subtle lesson of having compassion. "I, Tonya" is one of my favorite movies of the year.