“I, Tonya” is the story of Tonya Harding, a Team-USA figure skater known for being the only woman in U.S. figure skating history to land the triple axel in competition and for being involved in the assault of her longtime rival Nancy Kerrigan. The film stars Margot Robbie as Harding, Sebastian Stan as her then-boyfriend Jeff Gillooly and Allison Janney as her mother, LaVona Golden.
The film opens with young Tonya Harding and shows how her early childhood relationships with her parents deeply affected how she grew up. After that, we cut to when she is fifteen and meets Jeff, and we get to see their toxic relationship unfold. We see Tonya experience success in the figure skating world and the last half an hour is devoted to what the film calls “The Incident.”
“I, Tonya” delivers some outstanding performances. Margot Robbie sheds her good-girl image in this film to really become Tonya. Tonya was the bad girl of figure skating, and I believed that Robbie was too. Sebastian Stan and his really bad mustache are also terrific in this film as Gillooly. He does a great job of just being completely unhinged while still being able to seem under control. My favorite performance is Allison Janney; LaVona Golden is the kind of character who says and does whatever she wants and is so crude about it. She doesn’t take any crap from anyone, and Janney just goes for it. You really see her torment her daughter and you try to understand why she thought that Tonya needed to be pushed so hard to be so good.
This film has been compared to films like “Goodfellas” for good reason. It isn’t as hard-edged as that film, and it doesn’t have anywhere near the same amount of violence as that film does, but it does have plenty of moments with characters looking at the camera and talking to the audience. The film is based off real-life testimony from Harding and Gillooly, and they are constantly at odds. This film feels like two people battling out for what the truth is, and the writer does a good job of showing us that by having the characters provide contradictory evidence.
I was truly fascinated from this film from start to finish. It is a very smart film that delivers on a ton of laughs, but it does know when it needs to get a little serious. The only criticism I have for the film is focused on the figure skating scenes. They use CGI to put Robbie’s face on the body double when she isn’t skating, and it doesn’t look good at all. But the film is still expertly directed by Craig Gillespie, and he does a fantastic job with some really amazing scenes. I highly recommend that everyone go see this film while it still in theaters.
This article first appeared in the Friday, January 26, 2018, Edition of The Echo.