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article imageReview: ‘I, Tonya’ is a gritty story that no one could’ve expected Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 9, 2018 in Entertainment
‘I, Tonya’ is a gripping film that goes beyond the scandal heard around the world in order to explore the class bias that plagued the figure skater’s entire career.
It’s not often a scandal becomes engrained in pop culture or someone’s name becomes a verb. Conversely, these situations are almost always more complex than anyone realized and the “truth” is rarely an absolute. The curiosity of the public lends the central figures their 15-minutes of fame before they’re replaced by the next sensational news headline, but that doesn’t always mean they’re forgotten or that their stories are complete. Figure skating champion Tonya Harding’s legacy went from the first woman to complete a triple axel in competition to the woman who tried to handicap her biggest competitor — I, Tonya tells her tale.
Tonya (Margot Robbie) had a difficult childhood, exacerbated by her emotionally and physically abusive mother (Allison Janney). Yet in spite of their strained relationship, her mother continued to pay for figure skating lessons as she was convinced her kid had a talent for the sport. She wasn’t wrong, but it also served as another point of conflict in their relationship. Tonya eventually traded her cruel mother for an even more violent husband (Sebastian Stan), but she kept growing as a skater and eventually made the U.S. Olympic team. The story of how Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya’s teammate and rival, became the target of an assault is a complex one; however, the important part is the majority of the blame was laid at Tonya’s feet and it ended her career.
It’s unlikely anyone but those involved will ever know the complete truth, but if the majority of this film is to be believed, Tonya got the short-end of the stick in life and in relation to “the incident.” In addition to a rough personal life, Tonya was also held back professionally because even though she was often the best skater, her score was reflective of the judges’ bias against her lower class background. As one judge confessed, she didn’t possess the image they wanted to present on a world stage. But when she completed the triple axel, she knew they could no longer deny her… but they didn’t have to make her first every time, which spurred the on-ice rivalry between Tonya and Nancy.
The film’s presentation is brilliant with the actors recreating interviews with their real-life counterparts, corroborating or contradicting each other’s versions of the story, which is also being played out on the screen. Their language and tone are infallible, both as they recount the story and as they re-enact some of the most significant events of these people’s lives. As with life, comedy is borne out of tragedy so the movie’s dark sense of humour is always lurking, even in the more unfortunate scenes.
The acting is superb. While the men are noteworthy, the women are exceptional (just look at the comparison video below). Robbie captures Tonya’s determination and sass perfectly, excelling in the interview scenes which allows for even more personality. Janney is also standout as she spits venom with almost every sentence, regardless of who she is talking to or who might be listening. Both women will definitely be contenders during this year’s award season with Janney already capturing the Golden Globe for best supporting actress.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney
More about I, Tonya, Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, Paul Walter Hauser
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