Title – I, Tonya (2017)
Director – Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl)
Cast – Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Alison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Bojana Novakovic, Paul Walter Hauser
Plot – The true story of 1990’s American figure skater Tonya Harding (Robbie) whose talent was abundant yet overshadowed by her troubled personal life, that included her implication in a violent incident against fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan.
“America. They want someone to love, they want someone to hate”
Review by Eddie on 6/02/2018
A story so bizarre it could only be true, the tale of Olympic figure skater and American cult figure Tonya Harding makes for one of recent memories most purely enjoyable and fast-paced experiences in Million Dollar Arm director Craig Gillespie’s Coen Brothers like adventure of dumb criminals, talented sportspersons and dragon like mothers.
A passion project that was instigated and spearheaded by its Oscar nominated star and producer Margot Robbie, I, Tonya quite clearly represents a product that was developed by a unified cast and crew and this pitch black comedy that deals with some fairly confronting and at times in your face issues of domestic violence and childhood traumas is an absolute blast to sit through.
Capturing the time and place of Harding’s upbringing in the late 80’s, through to her rise to fame for the right and many wrong reasons in the early 90’s, as her quest to become the number 1 in her sport took her down many dark and publicly prominent paths, Gillespie instils his film with a real sense of purpose that’s heralded in by some committed and duly recognised performances from its main cast members.
Shedding her image as a beauty of the screen, Australian superstar Robbie excels in her first legitimate headlining role and is utterly convincing as the rough and ready Harding.
Tasked with inhabiting Harding as a teenager, a young twenty year old year and also in documentary like style as an older more life-worn version of the unfortunate soul, Robbie has with this role grown as an actress and showcased an ability to disappear into a role when the situation requires it.
Surrounded by an hilarious Alison Janney as Harding’s cold-hearted parrot loving mother LaVona Golden, Sebastian Stan in his best role yet as Harding’s often detestable husband Jeff Gillooly and Paul Walter Hauser as Jeff’s grotesque best friend Shawn Eckardt, I, Tonya has assembled quite the cast to elevate itself above the usual biopic fair, even if Gillespie’s film can be accused of covering similar ground a few too many times as the runtime pushes on.
Before finalising ones thoughts on I,Tonya, it would be remiss to talk about Gillespie’s film without making special mention of Walter Hauser as wannabe criminal mastermind Shawn.
One of the most memorable dumb criminals of recent memory, who isn’t too far removed from a Walter Sobchak like figure of this story, many of I,Tonya’s most laugh out loud and memorable moments stem from the sweaty presence of Shawn, who has a much higher opinion of himself and his abilities than he should ever have cared to conjure up. Each time his on screen, the laughs will follow and seeing real life footage of Eckhardt during the post-film credits sequence gives a you a real appreciation for just how good Walter Hauser is in his role.
Final Say –
I, Tonya is a real riot of a film, featuring an abundance of great performances and cast chemistry. Gillespie has crafted a truly original biopic that mixes in laughs, shocks and drama and while it at times loses some of its steam in the 2nd half of proceedings, when I, Tonya hits its groove, it’s a rollicking good time.
4 taped over Star Trek episodes out of 5