Susan Granger’s review of “I, Tonya” (Neon)
Unless you find parental and domestic abuse amusing, the Coming Attractions are deceiving. This is NOT a comedy – in any sense of the word.
Craig Gillespie’s glibly fictionalized, bizarre biopic begins with…”Based on irony-free, wildly contradictory, totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly.”
To refresh your memory: back in 1994, figure-skater Nancy Kerrigan was kneecapped by thugs, so that rival Tonya Harding could have a better chance at winning in the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Scripted by Steven Rogers, Tonya’s story is told from several perspectives. There’s Tonya herself (Margot Robbie), her sadistic mother (Allison Janney), and her stupid ex-husband (Sebastian Stan).
As a three year-old in Portland, Oregon, Tonya was a remarkable ice-skater. Her remarkable strength and athletic ability was exploited by the relentless bullying of her hyper-critical mother.
Caricatured as “trashy Tonya,” her lack of refinement and working-class background were reflected in her costumes, hairstyle, choice of music and aggressive style. Yet, to the surprise of the skating world, Tonya became the first American woman to complete the triple axel in competition.
“Used to getting her ass kicked,” Tonya was attracted to an obnoxious suitor, Jeff Gillhooly, whose best pal was scheming, delusional Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser).
Although Tonya steadfastly maintains she had no part in the moronic kneecapping plan, she was subsequently found guilty and banned from competitive skating for the rest of her life.
While Margot Robbie delivers a remarkably dark performance, she refused to meet Tonya Harding before playing her, telling “Variety,” “I knew that if I met her and liked her, I would never play the character properly. I would be sugar-coating her flaws. I would be trying to justify the bad things she might say or do in a situation. I didn’t want to do that because I’m a people-pleaser, and I know it.”
And captivating Allison Janney might bring home Oscar gold as the acid-tongued, LEAST supportive mother-of-the-year.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “I, Tonya” is a flawed 5, just like its ferocious heroine.