Seen: 27th January 2018
Produced by: Clubhouse Pictures, LuckyChap Entertainment
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney & Julianne Nicholson
Janurary 6th, 1994. Nancy Kerrigan was assaulted by a man named Shane Stant who used a metal police baton to shatter her knee. The story grew from there into a giant conspiracy that would involve Nancy Kerrigan’s competitor, Tonya Harding. While we may all remember some details, the weapon, the names, “Why? Why? Why?”, we don’t really know that much about Tonya Harding herself and what might have driven her into planning an assault… or did she plan it? Did her husband? Was it her stupid bodyguard? This film doesn’t claim to answer that, not really. What’s most fascinating about I, Tonya isn’t the story of Tonya Harding, but about how every person involved has a very different story to tell and none of them truly seem to line up.
The story is focussed mostly on Tonya Harding, played by Margot Robbie in a performance that will go down as one of the best in her career. It tells us about how Tonya got her start, her life being raised by her abusive mother LaVona (Played by Allison Janney, in a performance that had better get her the damn Oscar) and her tumultuous marriage to Jeff Gillooly, played by Sebastian Stan. We really learn how much Tonya’s identity was tied to this sport that she loved, how much she craved the spotlight and affection that was being given to her by the crowd. We get to have this experience where we see someone who only truly feels happy when she’s on the ice, many scenes will show Tonya being devastated by the side of the rink but the instant her skates hit the ice, she’s transcended all her problems and can just be loved.
What really makes this story stand out is that it doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are so many versions of what happened, characters will turn to the camera to assure us what we’re seeing is really what happened or to swear that a certain event never happened. After a while, you just don’t know how much of this is fact and how much is the comforting story that these people had to tell themselves in order to get through it. I find that to be way more fascinating than anything else. This repeated breaking of the fourth wall is a gamble, it could come off as cheesy in lesser hands but fortunately, the script is so good that every time they do it, it just pulls you deeper into the story they’re telling.
It’s also helpful that they have a cast that is nothing short of incredible, every single performer is bringing their A-game. Margot Robbie is impeccable as Tonya Harding, she fills the character with enough warmth and charm that you absolutely root for her, but doesn’t shy away from those rough edges that made Tonya such a spectacle in the first place. There’s one scene where Tonya flat out calls the audience watching the film out for being just another one of her abusers and it feels warranted, the way Margot has portrayed the hurt this person went through is flawless. Allison Janney defies description, she creates this awful human being who does some truly reprehensible things and yet, somehow, you absolutely get how this person believes they were in the right the entire time. Her delivery of her lines is some of the funniest things in the movie and I will say it again, if she doesn’t win the Oscar for this then I will be shocked. Sebastian Stan has the tough job of playing Jeff Gillooly in the way that Jeff saw himself, as a bit of an awkward guy in love, and how Tonya saw him, an abusive asshole who beat the crap out of her. It’s a weird balancing act that he has to pull off and he does it amazingly, I’m kinda stunned he doesn’t get more praise for that. The main trilogy of performers carry this movie through the weirdest moments, and they make every second work.
I literally have one complaint, one issue with this film that I know they can’t fix, but it’s still a problem… where’s Nancy Kerrigan’s story? Don’t get me wrong, I love this movie, it’s getting perfect scores, you should go see it and you will love it just as much as I did. That being said, we barely even see Nancy Kerrigan, she gets to yell the “Why? Why? Why?” line that’s so famous it’s practically a meme, but we don’t get to know her story or even spend much time with her. I would love so much if, based on the success of this film, they made a comparison film called I, Nancy and told her side because I think that’s only fair. Yes, Tonya was dealt a rough hand in life. Hell, her punishment is substantially worse than the one that the actual people who assaulted Nancy got. I get why Tonya’s story had to be told, I just hope sometime I get to see Nancy’s side of all this.
I, Tonya is a gripping film that doesn’t tell you the truth, it tells you what the people involved want you to believe because it’ll make them look good. It trusts you to be able to work out who’s telling the truth and knows that some parts of this story seem too insane to be real. It’s a thrilling film with performances that are made to be praised and a script that never finds itself skating on thin ice… oh come on, I had to make that pun at least once!