I, TONYA Review — Smooth Skating Through a Bumpy Life

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I, TONYA Review by Staci Layne Wilson

Based on the unbelievable but all too true events leading up to the 1994 Winter Olympics, I, Tonya is a darkly comedic tale of the infamous figure skater, and her part in one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy will be forever tied to the baton-attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver).

Although the movie is called I, Tonya, many characters are deposed, each giving their own version of events, mockumentary style. As the unreliable narrators of Tonya’s story each chime in, a fascinating truth emerges: Tonya Harding was born to be famous.

Robbie’s bombshell veneer is scraped away and spackled over with period 1980s garish makeup, frizzy hair, braces on buckteeth… but Robbie is still too attractive for the role. And, at 27, she can’t quite pull off teen Tonya. Fortunately, she can act her ass off and she makes us believe she IS Tonya Harding from hot-head to bladed toe.

Tonya’s trailer-park chic is faithfully recreated in the costumes, and Robbie transforms her gait, mannerisms and speech to match flawlessly. Aided by skillful direction (Craig Gillespie, Lars and the Real Girl) and a snappy screenplay (Steven Rogers, Stepmom), Robbie’s portray of Tonya is sympathetic without being sappy.

The cast of kooky characters orbiting Tonya territory include her venomous mother, LaVonna (Allison Janney), her abusive husband Jeff (Sebastian Stan), and her caring coach Diane (Julianne Nicholson). All of these people helped and hindered Tonya throughout her life – that’s where the whole sordid story really excels… in its shades of gray.

We watch as tot Tonya (Mckenna Grace) wowing with her innate skating talent, going on to community competitions and national championships, all while dealing with a truly terrible home life.

As a teenager (now played by Robbie), she meets local loser Jeff Gillooly and falls for him in spite of the fact he hits her. In love, and also desperate of escape LaVonna’s vicious temper, Tonya jumps from the skillet to the fire. Jeff’s deluded BFF Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) becomes Tonya’s “bodyguard” as she gets closer to her Olympic dream, and there begins the dire chain of events that would capture the world’s attention and unleash a tabloid feeding frenzy… not to mention a few indictments.

In the end I, Tonya points an accusing finger at us – at the audience who can’t get enough of scandal and salacious stories. But she’s no victim. Tonya was a fighter, and she still is.

Rated R
2 Hours 1 Minute

Get times and tickets at Fandango.com.

I, TONYA Review by Staci Layne Wilson

@StaciWilson

I, TONYA Review by Staci Layne Wilson

@StaciWilson

 

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Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson is an accomplished writer / director / producer / film critic and the author the bestseller So L.A. - A Hollywood Memoir. Find her on StaciLayneWilson.com

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