Review: I, Tonya (2017)

With the media’s creative take on everything that went down with Olympic figure skater, Tonya Harding, it’s tough to piece together what really happened.

Craig Gillespie and Steven Rogers’ biopic, I, Tonya, follows up in an unconventional manner. They chose to use snippets of interviews and a multi-perspective narrative to explain the events that led up to Harding’s professional demise.

The Review

In the beginning, there’s a disclaimer concerning the ironic and contradictory interviews used in the making of this film. Throughout, characters charged through the fourth wall to admit whether the current or previous scene was fact or fiction.

This comedic and heart-felt re-telling creates a story you just can’t not love. 

The film included some of the most memorable character intros I’ve ever seen. Within a few, brief moments, the audience is brilliantly introduced to every character (and their respective flaws.) Not only that, there’s a clear story being told in how they’re presented within their environments.

Allison Janney immediately steals the show with her portrayal of Harding’s mother, LaVona Golden. Her quick, snappy line delivery and vulgar mouth shed a fun and memorable light on an otherwise despicable character.

Janney goes on to utter what is quite possibly my favorite line in cinematic history. After an extended leave of absence in the plot, the audience is swiftly re-routed back to Janney who says:

“Well, my storyline is disappearing. What the fuck?”

It’s no wonder Janney went on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Now, let’s get to the star of the film, Margot Robbie. Although I loved her role as Harley Quinn in the DC Comics and Warner Bros. baby, Suicide Squad, I was unsure if she could transition to a more tender role as this.

Robbie proved me wrong real fast. Throughout the film, she portrays Harding as a teen, a twenty-something, and a middle-aged woman. All three of them are completely distinct and show a clear character progression.

As a teen, she’s more or less obnoxious – a not-so-typical high school kid with a lot to prove. Later, she’s seen smoking in the locker room at a major skating event. This is when Robbie dives head-first into the “don’t give a fuck” mind space of Harding. As an adult, we see her still redneck as ever, but with multi-faceted emotions and perhaps a deluge of regret.

Robbie returns to her Harley Quinn roots as she depicts her tumultuous relationship with on-screen boyfriend and husband, Jeff Gillooly, played by Sebastian Stan. The two are shown to be in a highly volatile and abusive relationship, not dissimilar to Harley and Joker.

The film marvelously catapults the viewer through heavy scenes with delightful, spunky humor and perfectly-timed fourth wall breaks.

The soundtrack is impeccable. It cleverly mixes old country like “Devil Woman,” by Clif Richard to more contemporary, female-empowering ballads like “Free Your Mind,” by En Vogue.  It was even blessed with a little Doris Day love too with “Dream A Little Dream of Me,” which perfectly encapsulates the Harding story.

My one major gripe with I, Tonya was the bizarre face rendering during skate sequences. The choreography and camera work was absolutely fantastic, but the way in which they plant Robbie’s face onto the actress/stunt double was creepy at best.

Her facial features never quite match the head and bust area of the actress they were embedded on. Her eyes appear large and almost bug-like. Robbie’s face, in some sequences, seems to float on its own as if it can’t keep up with its body. On more than one occasion, it succeeded in pulling me out of the story altogether. The same is true for McKenna Grace, the actress who played young Tonya.

Final Thoughts

The cast and creative minds behind the making of I, Tonya created a perfect and humorous homage to the Harding and Kerrigan scandal. There was no better way to tell this story than to share the multiple points of view.

Even with the strange CG work, every member of the cast delivers an outstanding performance. For this reason, I give I, Tonya a score of:

9 Shots of Fandom Espresso

Out of 10

Like what you read? Click the image below to buy I, Tonya from Amazon!

Quick Facts (From IMDB)

I, Tonya

Rating: R

Director: David Gillespie

Writer: Steven Rogers

Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney

Running Time: 2h

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Sport

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Image Credit: NEON, 30West – https://www.itonyamovie.com

Author: Christopher Fain

Author, blogger, content writer, and screenwriter based in Orlando, Florida. He is earning a B.F.A. in Creative Writing at Full Sail University. Twitter: @chrisjf93

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