Love her or hate her, just see this film.
I, Tonya, directed by Craig Gillespie, joins Three Billboards and Lady Bird as one of the best films of 2017. Based on the true story centering on the attack of Nancy Kerrigan in 1994 that left her knee fractured, the film tells a wildly engrossing story of the rise and fall of Tonya Harding.
Seldom will you ever see a movie that will so profoundly capture your attention while centering on low rent characters. Ms. Harding was physically and verbally abused by her mother LaVona from childhood, and her girl from the other side of the tracks background cost her dearly in every skating competition. Dealing with a mother who smoked and drank liquor at every available occasion, her life became a complete nightmare when she married Jeff Gillooly, a physically abusive husband.
The film tells Tonya’s life story by having the actors participate in interviews given over the years by Tonya and her deranged set of friends and family. In the process, Director Gillespie uses vulgarity as an art form in the same fashion as displayed in the above-mentioned Three Billboards. Furthermore, the soundtrack employs many popular songs from the 1980s-90s, and it leaves you embracing the entire film from beginning to end.
The movie has some magnificent performances, and let’s begin with Margot Robbie who plays Tonya. Along with being one of the most beautiful actresses working today, she had previously made memorable contributions to The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Suicide Squad (2016) and The Legend of Tarzan (also 2016). However, here she gives a performance that should gain her an Oscar nomination in the best actress category. Magnificent on the ice where she became the first American woman to successfully pull off a triple axel, Robbie’s Tonya opens a window into a personal life that robbed her of any semblance of dignity.
Additionally, let me flatly say that I expect Allison Janney to win the Oscar in the supporting actress category for her role as Tonya’s mother. She is simply brilliant as a woman who abuses her daughter to the point of throwing a small knife that sticks in her poor child’s arm. And if you want an idea of just how profanely vulgar mommy is at every turn, wait until you see her dismissive remark to her daughter at her regrettable wedding, “I said you could f—k dumb, not marry dumb.”
Furthermore, Sebastian Stan and Paul Walter Hauser give unforgettable performances as Tonya’s husband and body guard. Departing from his memorable performances as the Winter Soldier in the Captain America films, here Stan plays a deranged ex-husband who at one point drunkenly fires a shot at Tonya where he slightly wounds her in the head as she desperately seeks a way to make the Olympic team. And Mr. Hauser in many ways dominates the film as one of the dumbest human beings to have ever graced the big screen. This was the profound idiot who hired two hitmen who eventually attack Ms. Kerrigan.
In the end, you develop quite a bit of sympathy for Tonya for many reasons. The movie’s magical appeal doesn’t rest on promoting her as a hero, but as a product of an American way of life that has destroyed many people.