With an all-star cast and dedicated crew, the movie leaves a mark despite the occasional slip
Nobody has thought about Tonya Harding in a while, which is not at all surprising. The scandal involving her and rival, Nancy Kerrigan, that captured national attention happened almost a quarter century ago. However, with the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, just around the corner it seems fitting to revisit the story of the embattled ex-figure skater. I, Tonya does exactly that, telling of the life and times of Tonya Harding entirely from her perspective for the first time.
Directed by Craig Gillespie, I, Tonya tells the story of the highs and lows of Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) a one-time national champion and the first American woman to ever land a triple axel in national competition. Her success and future career are constantly in limbo due to unceasing abuse from her mother, Lavona Golden (Allison Janney), and husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). As everyone born before the 90's knows, everything eventually goes completely off the rails for Harding with the bashing in of competitor, Nancy Kerrigan's, knee, which was eventually blamed on Tonya herself.
Despite all of the abuse, the movie is still comedic, though sometimes uncomfortably so. Tonya's husband, Jeff Gillooly's, bumbling sidekick Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser), who "masterminded" the attack on Kerrigan never fails to churn out the laughs, but the script also attempts to make scenes of domestic and child abuse comedic. Tonya consistently breaks the fourth wall while being violently attacked by Gillooly as well as by her mother, to make witty comments to the audience. While this does lighten the mood and keep the movie from becoming unbearably depressing, it tends to trivialize and even romanticize the abuse that Harding faced throughout her life.
Furthermore, it is not unreasonable that Robbie and her stunt double would be wearing different skates as the skates needed to do high level jumps and spins are expensive and unnecessary for Robbie. However, it was frustrating to be taken out of the fantasy and drama of the movie when one could clearly see that the stunt double's skates had a distinct design on the side that Robbies skates did not. This was especially obvious in the slow motion replay of Harding's triple axel, her shining moment, where the skates that were shown in midair were clearly not the ones that landed back on the ice.
Overall, I, Tonya brings more to the table than initially advertised. The darkly comedic biopic first and foremost makes audiences reconsider who is to blame for the attack on Kerrigan. However, beyond that, it gives a clear, uncensored view of the classism that is pervasive throughout figure skating and even the greater United States and asks audiences a deeper question: between the media frenzy, the actions of the US Figure Skating Association, and the mistreatment by those closest to her, who is not culpable in Tonya Harding's abuse?
"I, Tonya" is rated R for pervasive language, violence, and some sexual content/nudity. Now playing in select theaters.
Oreet Zimand. Hi! My name is Oreet and I am the 2018-19 Op-Ed Editor for Silver Chips Online! I enjoy figure skating, debating (anything with anyone at any time), and laying in the grass listening to Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight" right before it starts to … More »