I, Tonya – review

Craig Gilespie directs biographical drama and comedy I, Tonya, charting the upbringing and life of former Olympic skater Tonya Harding and circumstances leading up to the infamous 1993 incident involving rival skater Nancy Carrigan, the film stars Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan and Paul Walter Hauser.

You probably know the story but you may not know all that lead up to the incident and boy was there a lot going on, especially in Tonya Hardings’ life as it turns out and interestingly enough, we get the story told from the viewpoint of the historical villain in Tonya. Was she villified, yes, was she arguably a bit of a bad person also yes, but what led her to be in the mindset allegedly carry out the attack on Nancy Carrigan in the first place?

Awful parenting to say the least, her mother LaVona was a bit of a banshee to her and a mom from hell when it came to her ice skating, beating and punishing her for even slightly talking back, this is a fantastic performance from Allison Janney as the jaded, out of touch with reality mother but boy is she terrible. Though Margot Robbie is fantastic as Tonya, frenetic, wanting to be the best but fraught with bad circumstances and bad choices, she was a product of her environment unfortunately but couldn’t quite escape bad habits which led to one thing or another.

At the heart of the story is toxic relationships with Tonya seemingly not being able to get away from bad situations, especially with her abusive husband Jeff – played by the charismatic Sebastian Stan, Jeff is initially shy and it’s a bit crazy to think he’d be such a bad influence on Tonya. Their relationship is comically toxic to the point where you can’t believe anyone would possibly stay in that situation but despite the somewhat comical portrayal, the abuse referenced is quite serious and no laughing matter.  The film in general has a very irreverent way portraying the events and characters that took place, some people come across as quite stupid, namely Jeff and his hilariously inept friend – Shawn (Peter Walter Hauser) who probably puts in the funniest performance in the film. But on the whole, there’s a very subjective point of view take on events that took place as we get Modern Family style interviews with Tony herself, her mom, Jeff and Shawn among others, this comes across as quite comedic and it’s equal parts sad and comedic to get different peoples takes on the same events and on Tonya.

I, Tonya is brilliant, a harrowing, tragic and often hilarious portrayal of a ludicrous true story that has gone down in infamy, the story comes across engagingly with quick, snappy pacing and writing and some great performances to humanize the characters, despite how genuinely terrible a lot of them were. The real life story may be a bit tragic (for both Tonya and Nancy, mainly for Tonya) and take everything with a grain of salt as this is a re-telling from various perspectives but the film manages to make an artistic, light hearted and interesting account of the incident, the fallout and the impact on her life afterwards.

Funnily enough, truth sometimes is stranger than fiction.

8/10

. Brilliant performances all around, especially Margot Robbie and Allison Janney

. Fantastic, snappy writing and very funny in parts

. Great pacing, engaging re-telling of the story

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