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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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Tonya grew up in a poor, Portland, Oregon neighborhood. Portrayed by Mckenna Grace as a girl and by Margot Robbie in a magnificent performance as a teen through adult years, is raised primarily by her chain smoking mother, LaVona Golden (terrific Allison Janney). Tonya’s stepdad, Al (Jason Davis) bails on the family, no longer willing to deal with the always angry and foul mouthed LaVona. LaVona begins taking Tonya to skating lessons when she is 3 ½ and harps on her from the very beginning. As she gets older, LaVona even physically assaults her daughter on a regular basis.
When Tonya is 17 she hooks up with Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), eventually marrying him. Jeff’s best friend is a bodyguard/spy wannabe named Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) and is always hanging around the couple. While Tonya hoped to get a reprieve from living with her mother, it turns out that Jeff is even more abusive. Being poor (LaVona is a waitress), Tonya’s training time is compromised by odd jobs and the time it takes to make her own skating outfits. The kind the judges don’t like. Bright colors and plenty of frills. Tonya chooses ZZ Top and heavy metal for her musical accompaniment, much to the chagrin of her coach, Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) and the judges. Yet, Tonya is a tough, athletic skater and to this day the only woman to complete a triple axel, double toe loop.
This all leads up to the 1992 Olympics where Tonya finishes 4th because of a poorly tied shoe string. She figures that’s it, but there is another opportunity in ’94 when the winter and summer Olympics begin to alternate every 2 years. It is during this time that the dimwitted Gillooly and even dimmer witted Shawn decide they need to do something to shake up Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver). Jeff thinks it is going to be death threats by mail. Shawn thinks it would be a better idea to hire a thug to whack Nancy in the knee instead. The script suggests Shawn acted on his own. Tonya is unaware but does learn of the death threats but figures she got one too, so no big deal.
The movie is moving in spots, taking the viewer through a plethora of emotions ranging from anger to hilarity. Props too for the camera work (Nicolas Karakatsanis) and editing (Tatiana S. Riegel) who seamlessly integrate Robbie’s skating with her double. Some of the best scenes are when the actors talk to the camera directly. True or not, the story certainly puts Tonya Harding in the context of her growing up. You don’t want a mother or husband like she had. One of the best films of 2017. Highly recommended.
Without knowing what to expect, I found myself so refreshed with this biopic! The story tells Tonya's story in such an honest and not manipulative way, this, of course supported with good writing, a good speed that makes the 2 hours fly and great performances by Margot Robbie, Alison Janney and the rest of the cast. There's some dark comedy, Tonya's underdog story is told in such a refreshing way, you find yourself rooting for her and just wanting you to have a happy ending. When you feel bad or sad for her, there's a joke in between that immediately makes you smile.
The movie does not sugar coat anything, it is brutally honest, but there's still some humanity and a good message between all the jokes and dark humor. After the movie ended, I immediately googled Tonya's story, and it was amazing how the story was told in such a loyal way even with little details, like her hair, her costumes and the resemblance to the mannerisms.
I do believe "I, Tonya" deserves all the attention and critics love its getting, and I do hope it snatches some Oscar nominations and of course wins!
This is a must watch! Catch it on theaters while you can.
I Tonya is told as a mokumentary style filming style. There's many recreations of actual video footage or interviews with Tonya, her mother, her abusive husband, the idiot who thought he was an expert in international espionage, a Hard Copy news reporter and everyone else who sold their tales. So the movie for a lot of it, isn't widescreen but made to resemble 90's TV look. I personally would have enjoyed the tale, more as a traditional movie starting from when she was a kid to the aftermath and Tonya today (well the movie doesn't quite get to today, it pretty much ends after her boxing career). But it is what it is, and Margot Robbie does a brilliant job in the title role from basically the teenage years onwards of Tonya. The younger years actresses also do a great job.
The film of course doesn't provide a definitive answer to if Tonya actually knew Nancy was going to be physically attacked or just thought some death threat letters were going to be mailed to her. We as viewers or who followed events back then, might have opinions but we don't know. The film provides both allegations, obviously Margot as Tonya claims she didn't. Basically the movie is a sad tale of violence and verbal abuse that a young child had to endure, a community that let her down and even likely contributed to it. I mean what did the judges who clearly wanted to dissuade her by not giving her accurate scores think would happen when her mother took her home? They might have wanted her (or more likely her mother) gone but they should have been supporting the child. They could have reported the mother to child services, confronted the mother, told her if Tonya turns up with a bruised face, arm etc, she won't be allowed to compete. The figure skating body could have ensured kids competing must be getting an education and have minimum academic standards. They could see what was happening. We've seen many similar things from other sports like tennis and swimming where as adults the kids who went onto be somewhat successful adult stars in the sports have said how no one in the sporting bodies wanted to help them, they knew what was going on and turned a blind eye. Unfortunately that seems to be the case with Tonya.
This is a sad movie basically, when you realize what could have been if there wasn't just one bad decision too many. Any break to that chain, and who knows what Tonya could have been. She was a good looking talented athlete, if she'd had better people around her, from the figure skating body, her coach, her mother obviously, she hadn't married a guy into domestic violence, if her husband didn't have a moron for a friend, if anyone of these links in the chain hadn't been broken. Well who knows, it's a shame and that's what you leave the movie when the credits start to roll feeling.