When I saw the preview for this movie I assumed it would be a bit of a daggy flashback to the early 90’s style of a movie that needed to be drawn out to make it a full movie. Boy, I was wrong! And like the rest of the cinema, I couldn’t get enough.
I,Tonya is based on the true story of American Champion Ice Skater Tonya Harding and her supposed nemesis Nancy Kerrigan, whose knee was bashed in with a baton during practice for the 1994 winter Olympics.
Globally, this was the biggest story of the early 90’s and like the rest of the world, I thought I knew about the story. However, this film proves I knew very little, not just about what happened, but about the people involved in the scandal too.
In a brave move the film is based on real interviews by Tonya Harding portrayed by Margot Robbie, her then Husband Jeff Gillooly - played by Sebastian Stan, and last but most definitely not least, Harding’s mother LaVona Fay Golden, portrayed by the incredible Alison Janney.
The film is somewhat set up as a black comedy, you can’t help but laugh! However, it quickly becomes clear that the underlying tones of child abuse, domestic violence and criminal behavior is way too close to reality for the laughs.
It’s not that the Director has tried to make light of these themes, but rather show them in a way that “normalizes” them. Not because they should be normalized, but to prove the point that in Middle America these issues are sadly normal.
The attack itself - the part we all know about, comes later in the movie. The bulk of the movie focuses on Tonya, the supposed villain, her childhood, and what got her to that point in her life.
It was an interesting move to tell the story from Tonya’s side as opposed to Nancy of whom was the victim of it all. I also wondered why Margot would want to play a hatred villain. But, this film challenges all of your thoughts on that theory! In fact, in many ways it will have you feeling for Tonya and asking who, really, was the victim in this scandal.
I normally feel every movie has a star who stands out but in this film it’s not very clear. Margot Robbie is phenomenal and has a transformation not seen since Charlize Theron in Monster. Even Sebastian Stan who’s quite the hunk is transformed into a believable Jeff as Tonya’s husband. The sets, clothes, hair and makeup are also stars in this film as they were done so superbly.
If I had to pick one stand out performance in amongst all this glory it would have to be Alison Janney as Tonya’s abusive, compulsive, disgrace of a mother LaVona Fay Golden. Janney makes this her own, looking and sounding the part. It was a truly magical performance by one of the most gifted and underrated actors in Hollywood.
However, it’s not all perfect. I did feel the film dragging on a little in the middle which was a great shame because I was totally in love with every other aspect of the film. There’s also a strange diversion to the directing style in the middle where Tonya starts talking direct to the camera, but as soon as it starts it seems to stop again.
I cannot recommend this film more highly, firstly to show there really is two sides to every story, and the media hype in this case truly did do great injustice to one side, and secondly, for being a bloody good escapism movie nailing every aspect while portraying a gripping story.
There’s no secret as to why this film has cleaned up all of the awards, especially receiving three Oscar nominations for Best Actress; Margot Robbie, and Best Supporting Actress; Allison Janney. My money would be on both for a win!