Movie Review - I, Tonya
Written by Steven Rogers (Hope Floats and Stepmom), this movie is based on interviews about the 1994 attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Specifically, it's based on interviews with five people and those five people are not on the side of Kerrigan. The attack on Kerrigan was designed to disadvantage her, so that she couldn't compete at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. The attack was not only designed to disadvantage Kerrigan, but it was also meant to clear a path for fellow figure skater Tonya Harding. In fact, the police investigated that Harding and her husband, Jeff Gillooly were the masterminds behind the attack. Yet, the interviews that are the basis of this movie aren't interviews of the police. They are of Harding herself, her husband, her mother, her skating coach and her bodyguard. That right there should indicate how biased this film is, but what's funny is that even among the people on Harding's side, not all of them even agree what's true and what's not.
Of course, this is a movie about figure skating, a popular Olympic sport. Therefore, this movie could be considered a sports film, one not unlike Rocky (1976). This movie certainly references that Sylvester Stallone film. Yet, in many ways, this is the anti-Rocky. This is the third film this year about a female athlete after Battle of the Sexes and Molly's Game. It's the second film this year about a former female Olympian after Molly's Game. Between those two, this movie is closer to Molly's Game in that it exposes how a woman can be brought down by the relationships she has with tough parents and men who mistreat or abuse. It's less an inspirational tale but more of a cautionary one.
Yet, it still takes time to celebrate the sport. The most glorious moments are when it's capturing figure skating. The camera goes onto the ice rink and Gillespie doesn't do what some might and that's imitate how broadcast television chooses to depict the sport. Instead, the camera skates with the protagonist on the ice. The camera skates with her. The signature move is the Triple Axel, but figure skating involves a lot of other kind of twirling, and the camera isn't shy about it. The camera twirls as she does. It twirls with her. It's exciting and engaging. It pulls the audience in and it's effective enough to exhilarate us about the sport as much as the protagonist is exhilarated by it.
Margot Robbie (Focus and The Wolf of Wall Short) stars as Tonya Harding, the figure skater from Portland, Oregon. She's a self-proclaimed redneck. She grew up chopping wood and hunting rabbits with her father. She learned how to fix cars from her father as well. She wants to be a great skater, but the sport is determined by judges and she can never score with them because they think she's just trailer trash. It's through Tonya we learn the flaw with the sport in certain regards. It's more about appearances than actual athletics, which is how classism comes into play. If one comes from wealth, than they are more likely to succeed.
Sebastian Stan (The Martian and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) also co-stars as Jeff Gillooly, the love interest of Tonya. He's not the greatest guy. The warning might be the mustache. Stan has such an adorable quality to him though that can swing from lovable puppy dog to vicious rottweiler.
Rated R for language, violence and sexuality, including nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 59 mins.