Thursday, February 1, 2018

I, TONYA (2018)

Rated:  R

STARS: Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan
DIRECTOR: Craig Gillespie
GENRE: Drama

No wonder Tonya Harding was a train wreck. Her nasty-ass, white trash mother may have thought she was dispensing tough love by driving her daughter relentlessly, smacking her around both verbally and physically--all in the name of developing her into a champion--but if the events as portrayed in the movie are anywhere near accurate, it was child abuse. 

It's all there in tragicomic style in  I,Tonya, from the precocious 4 year-old on skates to her rise to international prominence--competing in two Olympic games--and her subsequent downfall resulting from her involvement in the brutal attack that put rival Nancy Kerrigan out of commission. 

Australian Margot Robbie is five inches taller and too pretty to play Tonya Harding, but as the film progresses you forgive these things because Robbie nails this role like a triple axle. But if anybody deserves a perfect score (and her Oscar nomination), it's Allison Janney as LaVonna Golden, Tonya's steely-hearted mom. Man, is she nasty!

The Nancy Kerrigan subplot with hubby Jeff Gilooly (Sebastian Stan)--while essential to Tonya's story-- could have been tightened up some because it slows  down the pace, especially when juxtaposed against the dizzying high of the skating scenes (brilliantly edited) where Tonya Harding triumphed--and what made the story of her fall from grace (which she had in her skating but not in her life) so tragic.    

You'd naturally wonder--as did I,Timmy--how much of the actual skating Margot Robbie did. Kudos to her for learning to skate from scratch, training for weeks to become competent enough to do the more basic moves. Two professional doubles, Anna Malkova and Heidi Munger, were inserted, seamlessly, to land the difficult jumps. 

I,Tonya ain't no Ice Capades, so I wouldn't take the kiddies, but it's a real eye opener into the gritty world of someone who remains to this day a household name--for better or for worse--Tonya Harding. 

Grade:  B + 


The trouble with co-writing these reviews is that Tim writes his opinions first – so I'm left with the challenge of not sounding repetitive. In this instance, however, I am going to repeat what Tim has already said: Allison Janney should win this year's Best Supporting Actress. Although she's up against some pretty stiff competition (Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird, Lesley Manville,Phantom Thread, Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water), her performance is unforgettable. (On a part with Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter.)

A few weeks ago, I saw a documentary on TV about the real Tonya Harding and, as much as the interviewer tried to make us like and sympathize with her, Tonya came off as a bona fide bitch. True, her mom was no saint (the real mom looked a lot prettier than Allison Janney) but there's no doubt in my mind that Tonya played a big part in the Nancy Kerrigan debacle.

I liked this movie. A lot. The filming was imaginative; the skating sequences breath-taking; the violent scenes visceral. I especially enjoyed the bumblers who committed the assault on Kerrigan. Even though his part was minimal, I tip my hat to the crowbar-wielding Ricky Russert for his scared-as-shit performance. I also loved the portrayal of a fat-kid-gone-wrong by Paul Walter Hauser, as well as Bobby Cannavale's interpetation of local reporter Martin Maddox.

As disgusting as the real life events were, I, Tonya makes you laugh in spite of yourself. But if colorful language isn't your idea of fun, I'd stay clear of this foul-mouthed film...

Grade: B +