I was skeptical when I first heard that a biopic about Tonya Harding was in production. I had no idea why they’d make a film about an ice skater whose husband broke another skater’s (Nancy Kerrigan’s) knee just before the Olympics.
After seeing the film, I can’t help but wonder why this movie wasn’t made sooner.
“I, Tonya” is much more than just a story about the assault of Nancy Kerrigan. This movie really digs deep and explores everything about Harding’s life in such a compelling way, so much that I actually forgot about the Kerrigan incident until it happened in the story.
I thought I knew what happened between Harding and Kerrigan, but as it turns out, I was wrong. “I, Tonya” unexpectedly makes you feel for Harding. Watching the film, you can’t help but feel bad for her. Harding’s life was full of abuse and terrible situations that were mostly out of her control. That doesn’t mean Harding was a perfect person — she also was pretty awful at times — but “I, Tonya” almost makes that understandable. Skating is the only thing Harding loves in her life, and she dedicated everything to it.
The film is narrated by several of the main characters: Harding, LaVona Golden (Harding’s mother), Jeff Gillooly (Harding’s ex-husband), Shawn (Gillooly’s friend) and more. These narrations almost make “I, Tonya” feel like a documentary, and I mean that in a good way. When narrating, these characters talk directly to the audience and explain what was happening from their perspectives. The characters will sometimes pause and break the fourth wall to tell the audience something (similarly to Frank Underwood in “House of Cards”).
The biggest surprise to me in “I, Tonya” was how funny it was. There were truly some absurd and idiotic situations with people surrounding Harding’s life and the incident with Kerrigan. It could have been easy for these characters to be the generic stupid character that is more of a dope than a person, but “I, Tonya” thankfully never goes there. The film treats the characters like actual people; they just happen to be really dumb sometimes.
In addition to the interesting story, “I, Tonya” features some of the best performances from an overall ensemble cast that I’ve seen from any 2017 film.
First of all, Margot Robbie is a powerhouse in the lead role. She really disappeared into the role and legitimately became Tonya Harding. It makes it even more baffling that she doesn’t even give the best performance in the film. That honor goes to Allison Janney for playing Harding’s mother, LaVona Golden. Golden was a terrible person, and Janney goes all-out in the role. Every time she’s on screen, her presence demands your attention.
In a year of fantastic supporting actress performances, (Laurie Metcalf in “Lady Bird,” Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water” etc.) Allison Janney will undoubtedly win the Oscar. It’s not just the best supporting actress performance of 2017, it might be the best performance of the year in any category.
I do also want to mention Sebastian Stan because he gives a wonderful performance as Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly. He hasn’t been getting a lot of love for this movie, which is a shame. This might be the best performance of Stan’s career so far.
The only flaw I can find in this movie is that it’s really obvious Robbie isn’t actually skating during the ice skating sequences. They digitally added Robbie’s face into the scene. While the skating was impressive, the CGI was absolutely atrocious, and it took me out of the movie everytime it was present.
Aside from that one problem, I absolutely loved “I, Tonya.” If I had seen it prior to making my list, there’s a good chance it would’ve been in my top 10 of the year. I found myself relating to Tonya Harding, which is something I never thought I would experience. The performances were utterly fantastic, it was surprisingly funny and the story was incredibly compelling.