I,Tonya is a sharp, sassy biopic of Tonya Harding that talks about the incident, you know some other skater called Nancy Kerrigan had her knee busted out, and also deftly deals with class, sexual equality and dysfunctional relationships with a killer soundtrack. This biopic written by Steven Rogers cuts to the chase right from the outset and lets you know what you are in for.
I remember this incident well: Nancy vs Tonya or should I say American’s princess vs trailer trash princess and yet there were parts of the film where I was on the edge of my seat! Is, I,Tonya telling the real story or just another version of the story. At the very beginning, the opening lines of the film it states that everyone has their truth. This isn’t just the story of how Nancy Kerrigan’s knee got busted out or the demise of Tonya Harding. Rather, it is the story of the story and how the press manipulated us into judging Tonya because of where she came from. Tonya Harding’s life that started out shit, got good for a bit and then went back to the shits again. What, I, Tonya excels at is delivering all the information in a fast paced, pseudo-documentary, conversational style with the fourth wall broken down. That last bit, the fourth wall, is just a fancy way of saying for the majority of the time the character of Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) addresses the audience directly and this works incredibly well.
Tonya Harding’s life was hell because of her abusive mother, LaVona Golden (Allison Janney). She added to it by marrying her abusive husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). Steven Rogers doesn’t shy away from showing that abuse, yet not make the audience feel voyeuristic. However, it is not all heavy going, the pace of the film is good so where it is heavy in parts it is light and amusing in others. The supporting cast is excellent. The casting director deserves an award especially for the casting of Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn.
However, this is Allison Janey’s film and life truly does mirror art in this respect. Just as in life, or as I, Tonya leads us to believe, that Tonya Harding’s mother dominated and stole all of Tonya’s joy when she wasn’t skating. Then, so does Allison Janey in award winning role written specifically for her. When she is on screen, forget the scene with the parrot but every scene she is in from the moment she walks out onto the ice, to Cliff Richard singing Devil Woman, and smoking a cigarette you don’t even notice anyone else. She gets all the best lines: “Are you a gardener or a flower Jeff”.
This film feels tight because it is. Allison Janney said at the screening I attended it was filmed in 30 days and she was on set for only 8 of them.
I, Tonya just breathed life into the bloated biopic genre – it is sharp, on point soundtrack and definitely skates on thin ice in places. A must see.
I, Tonya opens in cinemas across the UK on Friday 23 February.
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