I, Tonya (2017)

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I, Tonya is a 2017 American black comedy biographical film directed by Craig Gillespie and stars Margo Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Caitlin Carver and Bobby Cannavale. The film follows Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. It features mockumentary-style interviews in present day, telling of her abusive childhood, dropping out of school to focus completely on skating, getting married as a teenager and the husband becoming abusive and eventually a stalker, to the Kerringan incident. The film also breaks the fourth wall, telling what actually did and did not happen.

The storyline starts with four year old Tonya in 1970s Portland, Oregon, being forced to ice skate by her abusive mother, LaVona. As she gets older, LaVona takes Tonya out of school to focus entirely on skating and training with coach Diane Rawlinson. Tonya instantly becomes a world figure skating champion, but is ridiculed by hurtful names, because of her homemade costumes and choice of music. She starts dating Jeff Gillooly, even though her mother does approve of the relationship. She ends up marrying Jeff to get out of her mother’s house, but Jeff ends up abusing her too.

She becomes the first female American figure skater while competing to accomplish two axel jumps. Tonya fires Diane after a quarrel and hires Dody Teachman as her coach for the 1992 Winter Olympics, but does poorly on sticking her landings and comes in fourth place. Feeling like a loser, she goes back to Portland and gets a job waitressing until Diane shows up and coaxes her to return to skating for the 1994 Winter Olympics, where the Nancy Kerrigan incident happens.

The film follows with the questioning of Tonya’s involvement, knowledge, or witnessing of the assault from reporters, police, journalists and the FBI and ends with a judge giving giving her sentence with large fines, withdrawing from the Olympics and being banned for life from competitive figure skating. Tonya becomes a boxer later in life.

Although this film wasn’t completely factual, like many biographical pictures eg. Selma and Remember the Titans, it still told the story in an interesting way, letting you know what really occurred. How it starts out with little Tonya, is very important in knowing how she got started in figure skating, her dad leaving for good, being raised by her abusive mother and her coaching on the ice. It shows all the cruelty that went on with her mother and it actually did (not all instances are accurate or true) until she married Jeff, but painfully had to relive it again. All the horrible occurrences, though shocking, are done so well, so realistically throughout the film.

Margot Robbie does an outstanding job as Tonya Harding, although I don’t think she looks like her for most of the film, so acting wise, she did great, look wise, she gets a no. She does fantastically in the accent and mannerisms of Tonya. The skating, good and bad, was performed so fabulously, although we all know it mostly a stunt, but it was done in ways that actually made you think it was really Margot. She might not have been my first choice for this role, but Robbie really surprised me in her acting skills, making realize she is a great actress.

Allison Janney was extraordinary as Tonya’s mother LaVona Golden. You really don’t like her and that’s the reaction that you’re supposed to be receiving and Janney does it well. She can do comedy and serious roles both extremely well. This was definitely to me, her best role, even outshining her role in The Help. The way Janney portrays LaVona, makes you feel like that it’s not her, but Tonya’s real mother, making her representation a mean, cruel, self-centered, cold hearted and just downright nasty woman, just like the real LaVona. Nobody could be this character but Allison Janney.

Sebastian Stan does impressively as Jeff Gillooly, making him seem nice at first, affectionate, then later extremely vicious like her mother. He portrays Jeff so well that you end up hating him more and more as the movie goes on, just like the real Gillooly. Stan makes the character so realistic that you feel that it is the real guy, being serious and evil altogether he does perfectly. This is definitely his best role.

Altogether this film is extremely well done. Whether the film being completely or only partly true, only the real people behind this story know, but that doesn’t detract from the intensity and boldness of this movie. 18+ 4.5/5

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