Review: I, Tonya

I, Tonya is quickly becoming one of the must-see movies of the season.

Hollywood’s hottest biopic has taken the box office by storm. With a stellar cast, the tragedy of Tonya Harding’s life is beautifully portrayed by director Craig Gillespie. The film is based on the life of Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding and the lead up to the controversy of the Nancy Kerrigan attack  at the 1994 Winter Olympics that eventually destroyed Tonya’s career. 

The movie opens with a series of interviews mirroring a documentary style. We are shown the people who had the most impact on Tonya Harding’s life from her mother La Vona (Alison Janney), her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), her bodyguard Shawn Eckardt (Paul Water Hauser) and her coach Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson).

 From the offset we are already exposed to what her life was like. A cold, selfish mother, an abusive husband and a life full of disappointment. The storyline then moves to when Tonya first began skating at the age of only four.

From such a young age Tonya was exposed to a life of abuse and ridicule. LaVona Harding is a pushy, abrasive woman with mild alcoholic tendencies who only cares about making Tonya into a champion. Even when Tonya is only a young girl, her mother refused her to go to the toilet, forcing Tonya to wet herself on the ice.

Instead of allowing Tonya to clean up, LaVona told her to keep skating. Tonya’s adversaries. Janney delivers an outstanding performance of LaVona, portraying the mother that we all can’t help but despise.

However Margot Robbie delivers a striking portrayal of Tonya Harding. There was very little I could fault on the Aussie’s performance. Robbie made me empathise and sympathise with Tonya Harding, even though Tonya isn’t a likeable character.

Tonya never takes any blame for her mistakes or troubles in her life and towards the end it appears as though she cares more for the fame than the sport. Robbie makes us feel empathy for her.

The one note I would have to say, is that Robbie was introduced into the film from Tonya at the age of fifteen, which isn’t believable and is an almost juxtaposition to the film. However, Craig Gillespie redeems himself with the music, set and costumes which adds to the authenticity of the era.

While this movie is very much a dark tragedy between the physical and emotional abuse she endured from her mother and Jeff as well as the classism from the US figure skating organisation.

There are comedic elements throughout the film can be seen by one particular individual, Tonya’s bodyguard Shawn Eckardt. Shawn is Jeff’s best friends and is the hilariously stupid. Shawn is the main architect behind the Nancy Kerrigan attack and is oblivious to the ramifications of the attack.

Shawn is under the impression that he is high level spy with connections to the under-crime world, when really he is a mediocre bodyguard who lives at home with his parents. His blatant stupidity and complete nativity makes he the butt of nearly every comedic moment in the film, distracting from the sad and tragic storyline.

However, the comedic element couldn’t distract from the profoundly tragic ending,  a pinocal scene in the film that embodies how sad this story really is.

Overall, this is a movie that you can certainly look forward to. Between the incredible performances by the entire cast, the raw emotion that is exhibited, the use of 1980s music and the figure skating routines alone should encourage you to see the film. With so many movie releases I, Tonya will not disappoint. 

Niamh Dunne

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