Movie Review: I, Tonya – Margot Robbie Shines

[I, Tonya has been nominated in 3 categories at the Academy Awards 2018: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Editing.]

Tonya Harding is a former American figure skater who, no thanks to a number of circumstances, was banned from figure skating for life. I, Tonya is Harding’s story, which if it is true, means that a great injustice was done to her.

I hadn’t heard of Tonya Harding before this movie came out. Since then, however, I’ve known more about her and I sympathize wholeheartedly. One of America’s most controversial figure skaters, Harding got the hard end of the bargain every time she went out to perform, despite being the only skater at the time who could do a triple-axel jump. The scene has changed since, but first is first, come what may.

Figure skating is a difficult sport to take up. And I, Tonya uses every trick in the book to show the nuances of the sport without actually showing it. The cinematography is raw and intelligent. Steven Rogers’s (not Captain America) screenplay is crisp and filled with emotion. Craig Gillespie’s direction is almost flawless. As for the acting? Read on.

I, Tonya tells Tonya Harding’s story as it is alleged to have happened, with Margot Robbie playing Tonya, Alison Janney playing her mother, and Sebastian Stan playing her husband (ex), Jeff Gillooly. While Sebastian Stan does a commendable job, it is Margot Robbie and Alison Janney who take the cake with their performances. And though both of them have been nominated for Oscars, Robbie for Best Actress and Janney for Best Supporting Actress, Janney comes out on top by a wide margin.

Alison Janney is a superb actress, and saying this is an understatement. She brings the perfect amount of disdain and disgust required of the character. Every frame of her presence spells brilliance. Utterly convincing in her role as LaVona Harding, Janney deserves every bit, every part of her Oscar nod. I have a strong feeling she’s going to win.

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding is amazing, too. There is, however, one complaint from me. Not so much a complaint as an observation. The reason I said that the direction is almost flawless earlier is that in places, her diction seemed forced when she cussed. But hey, that could just be how Tonya Harding is. I’m going to go watch old videos of her now to understand Margot Robbie better. [:P] That should tell how amazing Robbie was!

The first half of the movie – though Hollywood doesn’t believe in first and second halves – goes on at a fairly average speed, though I’m not subtracting its brilliance. The second half, however, comes in with the speed of a freight train and before you know it, you’re steamrolled into thinking what exactly happened here. It is heady in its larger-than-life conflict, spiking your heartbeat in its own understated way. You know it is based on someone’s life and everything happened quite a while ago and you cannot change it. But you hope that the best comes out of what’s happening onscreen, you hope for a positive ending, despite knowing that many-a-times, the happy endings are the ones that get translated to the big screen.

Harding’s arch-rival on the ice, Nancy Kerrigan, on whom a vicious attack was orchestrated due to which Tonya was banned from skating for life in addition to a number of fines, said she never got an apology from Tonya. During a little research I did for this review, I saw that Kerrigan said in an interview that she was the victim. Of course she was. There is no denying it. I, Tonya is merely saying that Tonya Harding didn’t get a fair bargain in it all when she so obviously should have.

I, Tonya is a raw telling of a real life story that happened more than two decades ago and that people had almost forgotten. Tonya Harding, a controversial athlete back then, needed to tell her story. And I, Tonya does that for her with much panache. The movie is sympathetic to her side and now, it is easier to see what might have actually happened.

All in all, I love this movie and I hope it wins in at least one category on March 4/5!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Apple Trailers!

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