I, Tonya is Definitely the Best Figure Skating Movie of All Time and So Much More!
I’m just going to start by saying that everything good you’ve heard about I, Tonya is absolutely true. Just in case you haven’t heard anything yet, don’t worry I’m going to get to all that good stuff.
Let me just start by saying that this is not your typical bio flick. It’s a far cry from, say, last year’s Darkest Hour. However, that’s probably I, Tonya’s greatest advantage, because there’s no way people aren’t walking into this movie without having some sort of preconceived notion about Tonya Harding, the figure skater who had a hand in the knee bashing of “rival” Nancy Kerrigan’s knee before the 1994 Olympics. However, to really understand how all that came about, you have to dive deep into this controversial figures past.
I, Tonya follows the many rises and falls of Tonya Harding, played exquisitely by Margot Robbie (it’s no wonder she managed to snag an Oscar nomination for her performance here). From her abusive past at the hands of her deranged mother, LaVona Golden (delightfully played by Allison Janney) to her unfortunate marriage to Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). The whole affair shows a deep insight not just into the events that shaped her, but the struggles she had to battle within her personal and professional life. There’s little question as to how incredibly talented Harding was as a figure skating, but there is so much more to her and I, Tonya shines a bright light on that.
For me, I, Tonya was a huge surprise. I’ve never really had much of an opinion when it comes to director Craig Gillespie or writer Steven Rogers, who have made pretty generic genre films in the past. The same could be said for leads, Sebastian Stan and Margot Robbie. They’re both very pretty and very competent actors. However, something amazing happened when these people came together. For me, I, Tonya is reminiscent of Fargo in that it’s a crime story filled with bumbling idiots. I’m not sure what is more insane, that these people could come up with a plot to try to give Tony Harding an edge or that it could go so incredibly wrong. It’s a comedy of errors filled with profanity and anger issues from every character. In all honesty, there is no real good guy in I, Tonya, but it’s hard to find a villain. Every actor in this movie goes above and beyond when it comes to their performances, and their efforts are duly noted. I, Tonya is essentially filled with nothing but despicable, but loveable characters.
Walking into this film, I had a vague idea of what happened with the whole Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrington thing. However, after seeing it I’m filled with questions and perhaps more importantly sympathy for Harding. The whole story shows how her life spun out of control thanks to the idiots that inhabited it. For me, this is a sign of great storytelling and direction, because of just how trashy Tonya comes across through the entire movie. She’s foul-mouthed, trashy, and downright mean. Yet, something makes you root for her even when she’s at her worst or making straight up stupid decisions. This is driven home by the almost documentary-esque approach to the narrative that Gillespie takes. Cutting back and forth between current interviews with the stars and what supposedly happened. Of course, plenty of times they’re caught in lies as they try to make themselves look better, but there are plenty of lingering questions as recollections never truly match up with what supposedly happened.
At the very least, I, Tonya is one of the greatest figure skating movies of all time. I would also go so far as to say it was among the films that surprised me the most last year. I went in with little to no expectations and it blew me away. It’s a hilarious movie that hooks you from the beginning and never lets go. A friend of mine pointed out that it would have been nice to see an interjection from Nancy Kerrigan at some point in the film to get her side of that fateful event and what led to it, and I have to agree. Though even without it, I, Tonya is a film that I wholeheartedly endorse. It’s not going to win all of the Academy Awards it was nominated for, but part of me really wants it to.