As I walked into the FSU Student Life Center movie theater to watch a midnight showing of the Academy Award-nominated I, Tonya, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew of the story revolving around figure skating icons, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, and the media craziness that ensued afterward. Yet, I didn’t realize just how much crazy was embedded in the whole event, both before, during, and after what they refer to as “the incident.” I, Tonya is an irreverent take on the story of Tonya Harding’s life from her time starting to skate to where she is now, and from the time I entered the theater, to the time I left, I still was not quite sure what actually happened.
Directed by Craig Gillespie, the film was based on two interviews he did, one with Tonya Harding, and one with her ex-husband, Jeff Gilooly. Both interviews were so crazy and did not even remotely coincide with one another that Gillespie decided he had to make a film out of it. Because of that, audiences are treated to two incredibly unreliable narrators as they follow Tonya from the age of four through her life of love, ice skating, and drama.
Most of the talk about this movie has been about not only the bonkers story that is told but the actors who get to tell it. Everyone in this film from the leads such as, Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, to supporting cast such as, Paul Walter Hauser who plays Tonya’s bodyguard, all seem to be have been made to play these parts. The only other movie I have seen Margot Robbie in has been Suicide Squad—we don’t need to talk about Suicide Squad—so I was blown away to see such an amazing performance. She perfectly embodied Tonya Harding’s eccentricities and while you’re consciously aware that you can trust a word out of her mouth you find yourself wanting to believe every word out of her mouth. Sebastian Stan also does an excellent job portraying the soft-spoken, erratic, and hotheaded Gilooly. Most know him as the stoic Winter Solider of Marvel Cinematic Universe fame, so it was really fun to see him play a role that was the complete opposite of that. When he spoke the first time and used a voice that was definitely not his own, I was immediately brought into the story and his performance was a large reason I stayed within it, even as it broke the fourth wall several times throughout.
Courtesy: The Los Angeles Times
The real scene stealer, however, is none other than Allison Janney as Tonya’s mom, LaVona. LaVona is a cruel, mentally and physically abusive woman who treats Tonya more like a prized show animal than a daughter. Janney is unafraid to bask in LaVona’s seemingly unbreakable confidence and completely vile nature, giving us a character to both pity and absolutely despise. If she does not win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress there might actually be a coup, and I will happily lead it.
While the movie is fast-paced in the beginning, I will admit that once you hit “the incident” with Nancy Kerrigan and all of the fallout, the movie seems to hit a slow-motion button and the momentum it built halts to a stop. The last hour seemed to drag by, but overall it didn’t completely override my enjoyment of the film. I, Tonya is a movie that is great for a Friday night in with some friends and a bottle of wine as you argue about what you think actually happened: was Jeff actually that abusive? Did Tonya know about the attack on Nancy Kerrigan? Are they all just crazy? The world may never know, but I, Tonya is a fun and somewhat mind-boggling attempt at trying to explain the unexplainable.
Final Rating: A-