Who doesn’t love an underdog story? In this case of I, Tonya however, what happens when that dog bites?
It’s the 1990s and there is no internet, no mobile phones and certainly no memes. The news would rise and fall on the juiciest of stories and none captivated the world quite like the story of Tonya Harding, the figure skater who allegedly plotted to injure her main competition before the Olympics. For a sport known for its grace, poise and style, she had none of these, with a mean streak as cold as ice.
Shot expertly and presented in a warped documentary format, we get to view all the crucial players in the story tell their perspective, incidentally based off of real interviews they gave. From ‘poor, innocent Tonya’ to the meek ex-husband who could be a wife-bashing scumbag, her former coach, a journalist and perhaps best of all, the scene stealing LaVona Golden aka Tonya’s Mother, a caricature of the worst manifestation of a woman you could ever imagine.
Yet despite all this, the brilliant performances of Margot Robbie, Allison Janney and Sebastian Stan somehow – and masterfully – make you feel for each of their points of view, and it blurs the lines of reality and fiction to the point where you don’t care anymore. There’s magic in watching a film about a true story that helps fill in the blanks, going past your anecdotal knowledge of “Isn’t she that chick who bashed her rival’s knee in?” and getting to the core of why these people did what they did.
Yes, she is brash, loud and non-conformist but who doesn’t love a rebel? Tonya was born to skate, and at every turn she is shunned purely because she doesn’t want to be a prissy rich kid, which she certainly isn’t. A country music-loving patriot with no education but tenacity in measures, from age 3 she was destined for stardom.
We get to watch her journey; from her belligerent mother giving the worst case of tough love I’ve ever seen to a kid, all the way to qualifying for the Olympics and then – spoilers – it all goes awry thanks to the meddlesome company she keeps. It’s hard to pinpoint what did and didn’t happen but one thing is for sure, someone hit Nancy Kerrigan and it set the sport alive – suddenly it was mainstream, suddenly people cared. And for Tonya, suddenly she was famous.
That is one of the deeper messages of the film and it is at the root of Tonya’s motivations – her desire to be loved. You’ll be shocked and taken aback at the life she lived and how it shaped her today, to the point where you feel sorry for her, all the while knowing the cabal she was involved with and the criminal outcomes it had.
She was the most famous person in the world for a brief amount of time, and not for being the first woman ever to land a triple axel (whatever that is) but because the media loves a feud and this was far too salacious not to dominate headlines for weeks. Then OJ Simpson shot his wife, and Tonya was cast away, almost 25 years later and it is much the same, until this film – one that is entertaining, funny and totally engrossing. Oscar Buzz is totally deserved.
Reviewed at Dendy Cinemas, the home of quality cinema