This time of year, good quality films seem to be coming out every week, and while most audiences don't have the ability to see them all, I like to think there's something out there for everyone. "I, Tonya" is just one example of an above average film, which stars Margot Robbie as Olympic figure skater, Tonya Harding, in a biographical sports comedy-drama about the 1994 attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan.
As a young child, the only thing Tonya knew was abuse, first from her foul-mouthed mother, LaVona Fay Golden, played by Allison Janney, and eventually from her boyfriend turned husband and now ex, Jeff Gillooly, played by Sebastian Stan. Whether her mother was yelling at her or Gillooly was physically beating her, Tonya quickly learned to channel her energy into figure skating. While it was immediately apparent that Tonya didn't look like or come from a similar upbringing as the other entitled girls with fancy hair and wearing pretty, expensive outfits, she was clearly the best competitor on the ice.
The film shows that in 1994, in preparation for the upcoming Winter Olympics, Tonya's husband and one of his friends decided it would benefit them to scare Tonya's top rival, Nancy Kerrigan, into not competing. What appears to start as just a harmless idea quickly escalates into Gillooly's friend, Shawn Eckhardt, taking it upon himself to hire men to actually strike Kerrigan with a police baton type club during one of her events. This action would critically injure Kerrigan and ultimately come back on Harding, ending her career as a figure skater.
The film is not meant to make excuses for Harding's actions, but instead persuade viewers to understand where Tonya came from and somewhat sympathize with the unfortunate situation she found herself. Most people today only remember Harding for the monster that attacked Kerrigan, yet the film shows a slightly different angle. What starts as blame towards Harding soon turns into her husband and his friend looking like the guilty party, with Tonya unaware of the majority of the plan to hurt Kerrigan.
"I, Tonya" shows Harding as a child up until today's time, and the film does a great job at showing Tonya at different ages, first with actress McKenna Grace playing the younger version, and then Robbie playing various ages the rest of the movie. The film also uses fake interviews of sorts with the actors playing the main characters, showing them talking to a reporter years later about what had happened.
Margot Robbie gives a fantastic performance as Harding, as do Janney as her mother and Stan as her now ex husband. All three actors give what are potentially award-winning performances and overall look about as close to the real characters as possible. The film is already receiving numerous award nominations, from Best Motion Picture, to Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for the Golden Globes, as well as a variety of other awards and nominations.
The film is referred to as a black comedy film, which means it in a way makes light of a serious situation or material. There is definitely a high level of comic relief throughout that goes in line with the theme of turning Harding into a victim of sorts and telling her side of the story. The actor who plays Shawn Eckhardt, Jeff Gillooly's friend and accomplice, also provides quality humor, as he proclaims to be an expert in counter intelligence, thus making him qualified to handle the Nancy Kerrigan situation, even though he has truly never had any experience of the sort.
"I, Tonya" is currently playing in theaters and is just one of the many choices for good movies to see over the holidays.
4 out of 5 stars.
This film is rated R for pervasive language, violence, and some sexual content/nudity. Running time is 1 hour and 59 minutes.