You know you are getting old when Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan are becoming dated references, but that is where we are fresh into 2018. Arguably the biggest scandal in the history of ice skating happened in the early 1990s and here to tell the story from Tonya’s point of view is the film I, Tonya.
I, Tonya is a Documentary-style film about the life of controversial figure skater Tonya Harding, born in the boonies of Portland, Oregon; Tonya dealt with an abusive mother raising her to be a child prodigy in the figure skating world. However, her attitude leads to many fights with judges who never gave her the recognition she deserves being the first US female skater to land a triple-double. It is here she meets her first husband; Jeff Gillooly who was also abusive to her, but was behind her throughout her skating career for better or worse. One night during the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Jeff conspires to scare Nancy Kerrigan giving Tonya a better chance of winning. His associate Shawn Eckardt decides to take matters into his own hands and has Nancy attacked during training leading to the infamous scandal that ruined Harding’s career.
Where Suburbicon failed as a black comedy, I, Tonya knocks it out the park. The film is a dark satire that actually plays the real-life events of Tonya’s life as closely as they can. Director Craig Gillespie has the cast recreate actual interviews he conducted with the real-life people involved with the exception of Tonya’s mother played by Allison Janney.
Allison had free range to bring her own spin to the character (the reason she was nominated for a Golden Globe). Sebastian Stan plays a key role as Tonya’s abusive husband Jeff, whose real-life version of the events and how they unfolded conflicts with Tonya’s version of the story. The rest of the supporting cast is as true to the real events as they can be. As a matter of fact, I found an old YouTube video after watching the film remakes shot for shot.
Margot Robbie not only stars but produces this film and given her performance, she really took the role of Tonya Harding to heart. Robbie doesn’t physically resemble Harding but this is the best acting performance of her career as her effort is sensational.
Screenwriter Steven Rogers tells a story about Harding that has rarely been told, and we end up sympathizing with her for the first time telling this story. When the Detroit attack happened, Harding was painted as the villain as Kerrigan was portrayed as the poor innocent girl who viciously attacked. While the attack was indeed dastardly, Kerrigan’s portrayal by the media was anything but accurate, while people were too harsh on Tonya but history is written by the victor.
I, Tonya takes a pop culture villain and turns her into an entertaining anti-heroine. The real-life Harding lost a lot in the course of her career so maybe this film’s success will be the last piece of her redemption story.