I, Tonya

I, Tonya

BannisterBannister   September 23, 2017  
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I, Tonya
I, Tonya

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"I, Tonya" centers on the true story of former figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie). She and her ex-husband Jeff Gilloly (Sebastian Stan) hired a man to break the leg of Harding's biggest rival Nancy Kerrigan, during 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway. Harding was banned from joining any competition ever since. Meanwhile, Kerrigan managed to recover and take home the silver medal at the event that year.

I Tonya, the upcoming sports biography drama movie directed by Craig Gillespie based on a script by Steven Rogers and starring Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson, Caitlin Carver, Bojana Novakovic, and Bobby Cannavale.

Working from a Black List script by Steven Rogers (whose credits include far softer material like Hope Floats, Stepmom and PS I Love You), director Craig Gillespie is keen to present Harding’s story in an unconventional manner, which is fitting given that her story is such a wild one. It’s a difficult balance, between truth and exaggerated truth, the darkly comic elements resting alongside the story of a woman who suffered physical violence at the hands of both her mother and husband. It’s also easy to fall into mean-spirited, class-rooted ridicule and while there is a certain amount of fun-poking here, there’s also an affection for Harding at the center, a desire to present her as something other than a tabloid villain.

It’s a serious blast, with a plot that zigs and zags (but only because it sticks, within reason, to the facts), and a cast of characters who are so eccentrically scuzzy that maybe no one could have dreamed them up. When Tonya is three, she’s taken to a skating class in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, by her hard-bitten waitress of a mother, LaVona (Allison Janney), who is really a monster. She pushes the little girl out onto the ice, where Tonya is happy enough, but this mother won’t stop pushing, and the terror of it is that every thought she has is a punitive whiplash of negative energy.

Surprisingly, the excitement level dips just a bit when the true-crime stuff starts. Those of us who try to ignore tabloid news stories (this viewer wasn't absolutely certain that Harding didn't chop off her husband's penis) will certainly be surprised at the movie's account of how Harding's rival, Nancy Kerrigan, got her leg injured during training for the 1994 Winter Olympics. In fact, some cursory research suggests the movie's account doesn't exactly match the story as it is widely understood.

But I, Tonya spins a convincing yarn despite, or maybe because of, its surfeit of unreliable narrators. This woman, we find, may be guilty of nothing more than a deeply unfortunate upbringing and terrible taste in men. Harding had a gift and was willing to sacrifice just about everything to nurture it. She was looked down on and insulted and beaten, then enjoyed a short period of adulation from complete strangers who were as amazed as she was at what her body could do. If only that moment of glory weren't negated by everything that came after it.

In one of the most piquant moments of “I, Tonya,” Tonya sits in the kitchen during her present-day interview and confesses that she grew up being abused, then found an abusive husband, then found the ultimate abusers: all of us. She became our punching bag. But “I, Tonya” returns her to being what she always was: a great skater, and a human being with a dream of downscale flash that wouldn’t quit until it was pried away from her by the world.

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I, TONYA [Official Teaser] – In Theaters Winter 2017
I, TONYA [Official Teaser] – In Theaters Winter ...

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