Starring Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale
The Tonya Harding biopic / mockumentary was one of the biggest eye-rolls before the festival started. Yet after the first screening, it became one of the most must see flicks, and by the end was even being hailed as an awards contender. It was also one of the highest profile acquisitions during TIFF. That’s the power of a film festival, especially one like Toronto. I along with other journalists were surprised at how funny I, Tonya was, playing up so many laughs in a story that everyone thought they knew. Are all the details in this version true? Probably not, but the characters on screen say as much. It’s tongue and cheek, wink-wink, all the way through and Aussie director Craig Gillespie’s outsider look into a very American crime story, is wildly entertaining. Robbie has quickly gone from the hot newcomer to a serious best actress threat in short amount of time.
“Getting knocked around was just a way of life for me,” Tonya Harding (Robbie) says in an interview. “But Nancy Kerrigan gets hit one time and the world loses their s**t.” From four years old, Tonya wanted to be a figure skater. Her foul mouth, monster of a mother, LaVona (Janney) spent her entire paycheck as a waitress, so her daughter could train. Tonya dropped out of high school and devoted every day to mastering moves like the triple axle, which she was the very first to pull off. Her landing and skating often superior to rivals, yet consistently she received lower scores. “You’re just not the person we want representing The United States,” one of the judges finally admits. Then “the incident” happens, and Tonya’s career is over as she becomes nothing more than a punch line.
Outside of the colorful (and I mean colorful) performances in I, Tonya, the creative and abstract presentation is the real treat.
Outside of the colorful (and I mean colorful) performances in I, Tonya, the creative and abstract presentation is the real treat. It’s been compared to a Christopher Guest films, but it’s more emotionally tuned up than his work. It takes one of the most hated public figures in America and dares the audience think about her in a different light. Whether or not half the information used in the screenplay is true becomes irrelevant. I, Tonya takes the addictive nature of reality television and applies that to feature film, and you can’t turn away. That’s where the brilliance of Robbie (Suicide Squad) and Janney (Girl on the Train) come in, fulfilling our trashiest performing needs.
When it was first announced that Australian actress Robbie would portray the disgraced Olympic figure skater, there was some obvious casting concern. Can you make someone so beautiful look like “Trashy Tonya”. The answer might come in the form of a hair and makeup nomination, as Robbie becomes an uncanny doppelganger. While Robbie has been steadily climbing the mainstream ladder with superhero roles or stereotypical babe parts, she’s never been taken seriously as an actress (that cameo in The Big Sick proves my point). That all changes with I, Tonya, which just might be enough to land her on the growing list of best actress contenders. Not to be overlooked is Allison Janney’s deplorable mother figure. She’s sporting a Janet Reno type look that further legitimizes this film’s claim on a hair and makeup nod.
A sarcastic take on the infamous female skating scandal proves to be a winning combination of performance and entertainment.