Tonya became the ideal 90’s woman comparable to Hillary Clinton, until the well-known scandal against Nancy Kerrigan caused those same people to now call her “poor white trash.” Thus, in I, Tonya, we get a first look at her real self, challenging our discernment on which facts are true and which ones are lies. Even Tonya recently said how the cast made her experience watching the completed movie so special, possibly a sure-fire authentication seal toward everything seen here.
It first throws out a brief disclaimer: "Based on irony free, wildly contradictory, totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly.” Fitting enough, a creative implementation of the characters’ interviews framed under different aspect ratios gives the extra needed depth inside their blatant thoughts. Editor Tatiana S. Riegel (Million Dollar Arm, The Way Way Back) masterfully tugs out the film’s atmosphere with fourth wall breaks thrown in to complement the interview segments. Inside the narrative, the Scorsese-esque discussions appear to pathetically lie at each other, when in subliminal actuality they’re pathetically lying at you.
Tonya early on wears a rabbit fur coat representing her parental history: father taught her rabbit hunting but soon left the family, never to return, and mother crafted many of her outfits. This shambled experience resembles that coat: despite attempts try to lipstick the societal pig, the ugliness of the crime against nature remains, a money hunt revealed by Steven Rogers’ (Love the Coopers, P.S. I Love You) script.
At the instant she becomes the first ice skater in America to land the triple axel, the tense anticipation perfectly captures her mid-jump face in super slow motion. Then expectations after the monumental moment crank up beyond impractical heights, leading to a Rocky montage that reaches an intense level unexpected from a graceful sport. Pretty soon, lingered shots make you ponder Tonya’s identity; near the end before the big Olympic performance, she looks in the mirror, slowly on the verge of tears, melting away her forced smile. Where did those tears originate though?
A lot of the credit goes to first-time Oscar nominee Margot Robbie’s (Neighbours, The Wolf of Wall Street) hard-edged mannerism as Miss Harding. In a quick teenage flashback, her insecure voice trembles while her lip slides to the side. In young adulthood, she slowly turns into her abusive mom, the plain sadness screaming behind her false eyes. Plus, in recreating Tonya’s Olympic performance, her tearful pose is spot on: the hand on hip, the palm out, the whimpering face, it looks exactly like the real photographed moment!
The effectiveness in recreating a controversial figure would have slipped on the ice without the feature’s next best quality: Allison Janney, (The Help, The West Wing) who plays Tonya’s crabby drill sergeant of a mother. Since Tonya’s mother has long avoided civilization, the filmmakers ultimately relied on home videos to help Janney. The same goes to the other cast members: besides the girl playing young Tonya, they all deserve a 6.0 in technical merit.
Although more should have been learned on the racial tension inside the sport of ice skating at the time. Clearly it got bad enough for Tonya to escape the buttheads (as she called them) in her home state of Oregon, yet the dim focus implemented in Tonya Harding’s feminization example through a woman’s sport fails to demonstrate figure skating’s empowerment across the entire world, it’s just the American rednecks’ perspective.
The worst issue concerns the extreme unlikability of everyone, especially the mother, who jumpstarts the unpleasant experience using a hairbrush to graphically beat Tonya off the rink. The script gives her no motivation: why does she want Tonya to succeed on the ice? Instead, she ends up a horrible person void of any good traits. Watching the massive egos depressed me the whole evening afterward, proving why I, Tonya lacks the full empowerment it intends.
Going back on the happier elements, Jennifer Johnson (20th Century Women, Beginners) designs the competition wardrobes worn by Tonya to mirror the real ones, the subtle cues in color to reveal the quality of glitter-glammer found only in the sheen of an icy surface.
Like Tonya’s sparkly, highly saturated dresses that contrast her raggedy brown rabbit coat, America always desires something to love and something to hate. She represents America’s genuine face, the polar opposite of women’s old expectations, the wholesome American family the judges prefer. Topping it off, she straight-up accuses you the viewer of abusing her.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Brodesser-Akner, Taffy. “Tonya Harding Would Like Her Apology Now.” New York Times. 10 Jan 2018. Web. <https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/movies/tonya-harding-i-tonya-nancy-kerrigan-scandal.html>.
Eight VFX. “I, Tonya - VFX Breakdown.” Video. YouTube, 17 Jan 2018. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2o4DYaD5VU>.
“I, TONYA (2017).” History vs. Hollywood. CTF Media. Web. <http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/i-tonya/>.
I, Tonya. Neon Rated. Web. <http://www.itonyamovie.com/>.
The Hollywood Reporter. “Tonya Harding & Margot Robbie: 'I, Tonya' & a Love of Skating | THR.” Video. YouTube, 4 Jan 2018. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LxaS0e7ibo>.
Inside Edition. “Tonya Harding’s Mom on Estranged Relationship With Her Daughter: ‘She Hates Me’.” Video. YouTube, 1 Nov 2017. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkbCFbjegjs>.
Marquina, Sierra. “Tonya Harding leaves the ice in tears, interrupting her free program at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics.” Digital image. US Magazine. Getty Images, 16 Jan 2017. Web. <https://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/margot-robbie-transformed-into-disgraced-figure-skater-tonya-harding-w461273/>.
“’Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story' airs Thurs., Jan. 11, at 9p/8c on ABC.” Video. ABC News Network. Web. <http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/truth-lies-tonya-harding-story-airs-thurs-jan-52045390>.
Vance, Kelly. “I, Tonya: Catfight on Ice.” Digital image. East Bay Express. Foundation, 27 Dec 2017. Web. <https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/i-tonya-catfight-on-ice/Content?oid=11999172>.