Popcorn Addict: I, Tonya
I, Tonya is a biographical tale of champion figure skater, Tonya Harding's life written by Craig Gillespie (The Finest Hour, Fright Night) and directed by Steven Rogers (P.S. I Love You, Hope Floats). Tonya (Margot Robbie; Suicide Squad, The Wolf on Wall Street), her mother LaVona (Allison Janney; The West Wing, Masters of Sex), and her on-again/off-again flame Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan; Captain America) narrates the story based off of real-life interviews from each party. Please note: This isn't a Nancy Kerrigan story for those seeking more of her perspective. Nancy is only present in four scenes, as "the incident" (as it's referred) begins approaching. Otherwise, this is Tonya's story of her very rocky rise to fame.
Most of us know the story surrounding "the incident." It was one of the biggest media sensations of the 90's which Tonya discusses in the film. The film depicts Tonya's rough childhood growing up with an incredibly abusive (emotionally, psychologically, and physically) mother and low income household, as she navigates getting to figure skating. In late adolescence, we her enter into another abusive relationship--well, allegedly as narration from Jeff denies many of the instances discussed by Tonya. The film has the audience going back-and-forth between moments of sympathy for Tonya and her circumstances, while cringing at some of her more self-absorbed moments. For example, there was mention of blaming the public for her downfall and some harsh words about Nancy. Embedded in the story was a narrative about skating culture--a culture that prefers cookie cutter, clean-cut individuals who conform to a certain image. An image Tonya could not, and would not, conform to based on her upbringing.
The acting in this film was outstanding by everyone. Many moments, you felt as though you were watching a documentary until characters were interviewed or Tonya broke the fourth wall, which speaks to the quality of cinematography and direction. Sebastian Stan as Jeff was virtually unrecognizable and Margot Robbie was far removed from her Harley Quinn character. Margot is clearly deserving of her Oscar nomination, but with other Oscar contending films still being released to theaters, her likelihood of winning is too early to call.
The negatives--not much. The CGI was a little wonky during the skating scenes, but that's expected as Margot Robbie is no champion figure skater. The portrayal of interpersonal violence, by both Tony's mother and husband, was quite vivid, vulgar, and intense. Did the amount of explicit scenes need to be portrayed? I could pass on them. The gasps and awkward laughs in my audience showed how intense the portrayal of violence was throughout the film.
Overall, I, Tonya is one of the most captivating films that I've seen in a while. Even though most know the story and have seen other source material, the audience was sucked in by the great acting and cinematography. The film is still not in wide release, but worth watching if you can find it at a local theater before the Oscars.