Film review: I,Tonya (4/5)
The tragic blonde princess of Ice Castles (1978) meets the gritty yet glamorised narrator of Goodfellas (1990) in 2018’s true biopic I, Tonya.
Based on the life of the 1992 and 1994 Olympic Games figure skating competitor Tonya Harding, this documentary style film attempts to tell the truth of what happened while never really being sure of what that truth was.
When rival skater Nancy Kerrigan’s knee was brutally bashed prior to the Olympic qualifiers a media circus soon formed around Tonya, her boyfriend Jeff Gillooly, and their less than wholesome background.
Growing up with a cold and ruthless mother, an absent father, and no money, Tonya then entered into an abusive marriage with Jeff and dedicated her entire life to skating. Unfortunately for her, acceptance by those who could make or break her career was never going to be easily won.
Just when she thought she might make it, and for a split second America embraced her, the foolish actions of her ex-husband and his best friend brought it all crashing down. Intending to help her, they hatched a plot to ‘scare’ Nancy Kerrigan and instead ruined Tonya’s life.
That’s not to say that Harding herself was entirely innocent. The film mostly presents her in a victim light, but there are shades to Margot Robbie’s performance that suggest other possibilities.
Robbie doesn’t possess the natural ability of Ice Castles‘ skater-turned-actress Lynn Holly Johnson, unfortunately needing sometimes poor CGI to convince the audience she is really doing all those triple axels, but she does give a very candid and nuanced performance. She is nominated for best actress at this year’s academy awards and, though it’s not likely she’ll win, she really is the tour-de-force of the film.
Best supporting actress nominee Allison Janney, who has already won the BAFTA equivalent, is solid in a more one note role, while Sebastian Stan gives his all as the stupid and violent Jeff, managing to be both off-putting and likeably boyish.
Ultimately, no actor is playing a hero or a villain, because no one in the story is either of those things. What I, Tonya wants to get across is that everyone has their own truth.
Well shot and well paced, the film also features an excellent soundtrack of nineties pop songs and some very authentic looking costume design. Recommended.
I, Tonya is on general release, 2hrs, certificate 15