I, Tonya centres around Olympic figure-skater Tonya Harding (Suicide Squad‘s Margot Robbie) and Jeff Gillooly, her violent ex-husband, played by Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky O’Hare in the Marvel movies, including Captain America: Civil War, so it’s DC vs Marvel at last… albeit kinda in real life.
In fact, you could also throw in a third cinematic universe in there with Universal’s Dark Monsters world, as Alison Janney adds her weight as… The Mummy.
The film begins in the ‘present day’ with pieces-to-camera with the main two, plus, amongst others, her mother, LaVona Golden (Janney), security guard Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser), her coach, Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson), and tabloid reporter Martin Maddox, portrayed brilliantly by Bobby Cannavale, even though he never sets foot out of that office.
It then goes back 40 years, to when she was just starting out at the age of 4, accompanied by her forceful and demanding mother, who even attends Tonya’s very first date, with Jeff, while she’s just 15, and sporting a Princess Diana haircut. From that point onwards, which is 11 minutes into the film, she’s played by Ms Robbie. As for the skating, when you see her young self performing triple axle jumps on the ice, in the first few minutes, it’s clearly a child’s face CGI’d onto someone else’s body.
Before long, you realise that for the ‘main’ Tonya, it’s clear that the difficult stuff was done by someone else, with her face also CGI’d on, since you can easily spot this. So, yes, the CGI department for I, Tonya weren’t completely on the ball, but then you can easily forgive this, since it’s one of Robbie’s best performances to date, and you can’t get that bang-on if you’re trying to worry about performing triple axle jumps… something no-one else had done before Harding.
Everyone in the world is against Tonya, as she’s the enfant terrible of the sport in a part-drama/part-documentary that’s really well put-together. It’s very clever the way it mixes the opening retrospective chat with talking to the fourth wall – such as with the Rocky-inspired training scene where it happens once, and then you’re expecting it more – and you’re not disappointed when they come; and the film is halfway through before we get to the 1993 ‘incident’ with Nancy Kerrigan, and everything that happens as a result of that, but I won’t go into detail in case you don’t know, as it’s hugely entertaining to find out; and don’t think you’ll be twiddling your thumbs before we get to this, because it’s also hugely entertaining in the first hour.
As for Robbie and Janney, in I, Tonya, they are one of the greatest pairings we’ll see this year. After an altercation to end all altercations, Lavona says in the present day, “Oh, please! Show me a family who *doesn’t* have their ups and downs(!)”
She also gets plenty of rude retorts, with cursing aplenty, even if it’s a comparatively f-word-free “lick my ass!”
I also loved the line about going to a Richard Marx concert. I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers him 🙂
While there’s none of his music in this, the film does have a stellar soundtrack, with tracks dropped in like a handful of films, such as Boogie Nights, which find the perfect song to begin at the perfect moment, including:
- Bad Company – Shooting Star
- Chicago – 25 or 6 to 4
- Cliff Richard – Devil Woman (albeit credited as Cliff Richards)
- Fleetwood Mac – The Chain
- ZZ Top – Sleeping Bag
- Laura Branigan – Gloria
There’s also great support from Stan and Hauser, even though you don’t always appreciate it early on, as those proceedings are mostly dominated by the two female leads.
However, while Janney received a BAFTA supporting award for I, Tonya, I’m not sure if she wholly deserves it for this particular movie, as she’s not in it all the way through, but she’s played second fiddle in many films, so as it always goes when it comes to the awards, it’s ‘her time’.
There’s footage of the main real people in the closing credits, at the time of recording those pieces-to-camera (and during the film, you’ll see why they’re doing what they do), and they’ve got the look of each spot-on.
In closing, I’d say Margot Robbie gives the best performance I have ever seen from her in this movie, and out of those who are up for grabs in the Oscars (and who were in the BAFTAs), she is easily head and shoulders and ice-skates above them all. Sadly, Frances McDormand, who I have always thought was on auto-pilot, especially in Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, took the BAFTA and I expect will do so as well for the Oscars. If not, then the other big-hitter for those is Meryl Streep, who was comatose in The Post.
In fact, this movie beats most of them to the Best Film…. yet wasn’t up for it in either awards ceremony!
Also available is the Soundtrack CD.
Running time: 120 minutes
Studio: Entertainment One UK Ltd
Released: February 23rd 2018
Director: Craig Gillespie
Producers: Tom Ackerley , Margot Robbie, Steven Rogers and Bryan Unkeless
Screenplay: Steven Rogers
Music: Peter Nashel
Tonya Harding: Margot Robbie
Jeff Gillooly: Sebastian Stan
LaVona Golden: Allison Janney
Diane Rawlinson: Julianne Nicholson
Shawn: Paul Walter Hauser
Martin Maddox: Bobby Cannavale
Dody Teachman: Bojana Novakovic
Nancy Kerrigan: Caitlin Carver
Tonya (3 1/2 Yrs): Maizie Smith
Tonya (8-12 Yrs): Mckenna Grace
Skater Mom: Suehyla El-Attar
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.