Published on February 23rd, 2018 | by voxx0
Out: 23 February
Length: 119 minutes
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Paul Walker Hauser, Bobby Cannavale
Plot: Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding (Robbie) rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.
In January 1994, Tonya Harding, famous for being the first American woman to complete the most difficult trick in Figure Skating. This gained her a reputation as an adored sports-woman, and she literally had the world at her heels (or in this case her blades). However, it wasn’t long before she became infamous for an alleged attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, so more often than not she’s remembered not only as having a dislikened attitude towards the pompous judges and sometimes the audience, but also for the attack which got her banned from all future Olympic events and forced her to retire from skating in general.
‘I, Tonya’ is more than capable of showing her life.
We start with Tonya as a child, played by Gifted’s Mckenna Grace, already forced into the world of figure skating by the rule of her overbearing mother, LeVona Harding (Janney). Grace pulls a terrific performance as the already tortured child, who starts to gain a bad attitude, especially towards her dance teacher (Nicholson). Behind that though is a young skater who’s ambitions are high, and competing at a high level she quickly becomes a world-renowned athlete. On the ice she’s dedicated to winning a life that’s better than her own; at home she’s tortured by her mother who sees it as a way to get her to become a champion. Then we skip to her teenage years – now it’s Robbie to take the reins. On the verge of gaining world fame after competing in championships, she finds a chance to escape from her tortured life at home and get away from her mother when she meets Sebastian Stan’s Jeff Gilooly, but even after that moment life doesn’t get entirely better for her. It seems that the ice is her true home; she’s utterly relentless, thanks to a few action scenes that are fast-paced, well-timed and beautifully shot. But that’s only the bare essentials; you have to credit the performances too.
As Tonya, Robbie impresses, entirely capped in ugly wigs, completely stunning through visceral action scenes, complete with the attitude. To be fair, if you were to essentially rank her performance on a scale, it would be very different from playing Leonardo DiCaprio’s wife in Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, and yet it’s almost the same as the pure insanity of Harley Quinn. So with her popularity in Hollywood, she’s not exactly a poor choice here.
Her performance is more than a match for her co-star, Allison Janney, as a woman who’s not only a keen supporter of her daughter (in her own way), but who succeeds as a vicious woman. The result here is even scarily close to the real person, complete with the gold faux fur coat, the bird on her shoulder and the wire of an oxygen tank snaking through her room up to her nose after years of smoking. As a performer, Janney has had that streak of cruelty in her roles, but she’s also had a nice side to her – not entirely on show here, but that’s what makes her performance so good (definitely earning her first Golden Globe win).
There’s only one real criticism with ‘I, Tonya’. Sadly, the action scenes aren’t as visceral as they should’ve been. Granted, they’re fast paced, but they fail to a noticeable rubbery CG of Robbie’s face plastered over the face of a stunt double. The film also sometimes gets distracted from the winding road of Tonya’s story, making it difficult to get into the underbelly of her turbulant life. Still, the film is consistently gripping, darkly funny, and utterly relentless, ultimately convincing the audience of her tale of trial by media. Gillespie’s directing through the dark winding road falls into a sort of ‘Goodfellas’ type territory, and the stunning performances may perhaps ask you to reconsider your views. It changes her from the villain to the heroine, but really, what’s so wrong with that?
VERDICT: Robbie and Janney give gold medal winning performances through darkly hilarious storytelling. If you only watch one biopic this year – make it this one.
- By Corey Denford