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Based on the unbelievable but true events, I, Tonya is a dark comedic tale of American figure skater, Tonya Harding, and one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with an infamous and poorly executed attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan. Featuring an iconic turn by Margot Robbie as the fiery Harding, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, and an original screenplay by Steven Rogers, Craig Gillespie's I, Tonya is an absurd, irreverent, and piercing portrayal of Harding's life and career in all of its unchecked—and checkered—glory.
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Allison was not able to meet LaVona, Tonya's abusive, cold, manager/mother, to research her "character" "So," she said, "I just made her up."
The "mockumentary" style, perfect for one of the most highly publicized stories in history, uses bits of mock interviews with the characters throughout the movie, and as a segue into scenes, which is how you meet Lavona.
Everything in that scene, the set, the script, direction, hair, costume and Allison's performance, gave the audience very little doubt about LaVona. I almost felt like I was in the room with her, thinking I was going to reek of cigarettes and worried she was going to come at me for something!
"I Tonya" is a compelling, account of Tonya Harding, the extraordinarily talented, ambitious figure skater, who, despite being so close many times, could not escape the legacy of growing up "White Trash", and succeed in a sport that was not exactly
"friendly" to a girl from the wrong side of the tracks.
Billed as a dark comedy, "I Tonya" is not exactly the type of comedy that gets big laughs, but Gillooly, and his bungling crew of bone heads provide some comic relief.
When Tonya shoots at Gillooly with a rifle, she "breaks character" and addresses the "audience" saying, "I didn't do this," It is kind of a "wink" at the mockumentary style.
However, ultimately, this technique, using exaggeration, and deadpan delivery, is intended to illustrate real absurdity, and the tragic aspects of Tonya's life.
Just focusing on Tonya's abusive relationship with her husband, and the scandal surrounding the attack on rival skater, Nancy Kerrigan, could have easily translated into an entertaining straight drama.
Although it does actually appear to be the focus, I think the intention was to use her difficult upbringing, and the frequent, escalating abuse and domestic violence with husband, Jeff Gillooly as a backdrop for the larger story of classism in the U.S., and the impact the legacy of rural poverty has on generations from that culture.
We may not think about the rarity of a story like Tonya's.
The likelihood of a girl, especially, making it out of rural poverty at all is practically zero, then becoming a contender for world champion in such an unlikely, demanding sport.....well, that's why it's a story.
The question of how much credit should be given to LaVona for Tonya's success is difficult, since she also cannot be exempt from responsibility for Tonya's failures, and the film did not waiver and use license to take sides either way.
Another reviewer who grew up in it, calls rural poverty, a culture of "desperation."
I have described it as exactly that, although I have just observed someone from that culture, and his life of constant chaos.
I would definitely say a learned desperation was responsible for Tonya's circumstances. There is a heartbreaking scene with Tonya only about six years old, watching her Ioving stepfather suddenly driving away, while Tonya screams and pleads to no avail.
However, I think it's not always a case of desperation, but the inability to consider future consequences it ultimately creates. I think it develops a behavior of always acting to fill immediate needs, even when there are other options.
It is the absence of considered thinking and judgement, and repeated bad decisions made on impulse, that become a devastating life pattern.
You see Tonya sabotage herself over and over again,
when she actually had some pretty lucky breaks.
The Olympic Committee changes the winter schedule, it allowed Tonya a one time chance to compete in only 2 years.
They also discontinued compulsory figures and put the focus on jumps.
Tonya was the best in the world at jumps.
But, she arrives 2 days late, and the whole issue with the lace on her skate, occurred because she didn't bring an extra pair of laces.
There was a moment when Tonya fires Diane, a great job, played by Julieanne Nicholson, her coach since childhood, and she throws her skate at her.
Diane wasn't hit, but the still shot of of Tonya's face showed in her eyes, that she recognized her mother in herself for the first time.
Margot Robbie, a stunning Australian actress who played the gorgeous trophy wife of Leo DiCaprio in the "Wolf of Wallstreet", shows she can also easily pull off a strong, complex character like Tonya, with an excellent performance that is also Oscar worthy.
I can only say, it is hard to complete this review without ruining the ending.
The script and direction were outstanding in a film that never wavered from its intention to accurately present Tonya's story, and let the audience decide.
The movie's two shortcomings are in the final theme it drives home at the end and in the script throughout. Expunge half of the profanities and change the theme which is at the end, and I'd have no complaints here. While I dislike profanity and choose not to use it in my own lifestyle, I don't usually consider that to be the make-or-break factor of a movie's merits. But this is a movie where I wondered what the point was of using it to the degree it did. I particularly hate it when the f word is a filler word. A lot of people talk that way, but that doesn't mean a film portraying something realistically has to go to the full extent with the f word for every viewer to sit through. Do words objectively mean something or do they not? I don't know the answer to that, but the f word and s word get used in this movie about as much as in Good Will Hunting, and it totally ruined Good Will Hunting for me because it set the opposite tone from the uplifting/inspirational mood of Good Will Hunting. If you have a movie with generally angry characters who are abusive, like this one, I understand there would be some profanities, even though I still don't consider it necessary to include in the script. But not 3 or 4 f words per paragraph just as filler words! It struck me at several points as lazy. I don't understand how screenwriters who write these R-rated scripts decide how many to include if one, two, three, four, or five all would say equally the same thing. I also don't think it's an effective crutch for screenwriters who want to have their characters express anger, or who want 'em just to talk like "tough guys". When a movie uses f and s words so much that I'm finding myself paying attention to the frequency of it, then it's lost its focus, which should be to keep my attention on the story and characters, not the cussing.
The theme which the screenwriter put at the end is also totally unnecessary. It ends with Tonya saying life is brutal, there is no objective truth, and you just have to find your own identity. So it's not surprising that the critics would love this movie, because they like movies which are radically individualistic, like this or Three Billboards or Lady Bird (none of which I consider among the best movies of 2017). They abhor movies which impose a particular view of truth, instead wanting movies which just describe what someone like Tonya is going through. But to me, this movie is not very meaningful if it's just describing a vicious media culture and a lonely woman who has to find her own way through life with no emotional support--then leaves it with an odious statement at the end about life having no objective meaning, with, of course, the f word in her last narrated sentence.
Critics love left-wing social themes, unique styles, lack of resolution, and movies like Boyhood which just describe reality instead of imposing a particular philosophy. That's why they picked trashy ones like Lady Bird and Three Billboards. I don't consider this as bad as those two, but it's not worthy to be called a "great" film when it has those serious issues. I like it in ways, but I don't think I could bring myself to sit through all those profanities again, in spite of having everything else done with maximum filmmaking skill.