Movie Review: I, Tonya
I found I, Tonya to be an entertaining and quirky pop culture biography. I also am of the opinion that I, Tonya was created solely for my viewing pleasure. As such, your mileage may vary.
Sometimes a movie comes out that seems tailor made for you to a degree that is unsettling. I, Tonya was that movie for me. This movie jammed so many of the little things I like into it, that I am almost certain it was created solely to get my attention. The movie has actors that I’m dying to see. It starts with a sport I really admire in Skating, and finishes with a sport I love, Boxing. I, Tonya’s soundtrack had me drumming along in my seat. If an attractive redhead had walked up to me halfway through this movie to offer me a free Hefeweizen I wouldn’t have been surprised. Unsettled, but not surprised.
Despite all of my personal preferences being checked off in some Inception-level conspiracy to get me to give this movie an A+, I must admit that I, Tonya had a section that dragged for me, so I must relegate it to the “Hall of Very Good” instead.
I, Tonya (2017)
I, Tonya is less a documentary, and more a pop culture document. It recreates the life of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding using the often contradictory interviews that Tonya and her acquaintances provided. This fourth wall breaking film follows Tonya from a little child all the way through the infamous Nancy Kerrigan incident and beyond.
It is my opinion that the largest factor that will determine your enjoyment of I, Tonya is your ability to suspend disbelief. This movie is predicated on stories of questionable veracity related by, as the movie itself describes, “a bunch of boobs”. If you were looking for a serious documentary, you will be disappointed. The movie even goes so far as to disabuse you of any notions of seriousness in it’s opening crawl.
What this movie is, is a film that’s equal parts comedy and tragedy. By taking the “authors” of this story at their word, I, Tonya can be both bizarre/tongue in cheek as well as moving/poignant. Tonya Harding might not be telling the %100 truth, but her story is %100 Authentic White Trash Americana.
The movie’s supposition that what you are seeing is a tawdry campfire story allows it to get over some tough asks. I, Tonya asks you to believe that Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan can go from 15 years old to 25 to 45 just by changing their hair and clothes. It was unintentional comedy seeing Margot playing a gawky teen; it was even funnier watching Stan try and sell us on being 50 just by dyeing his goatee grey.
The same is true for the skating routines. I really liked them, but I’d be the proud owner of the Brooklyn Bridge if I believed for a second Margot Robbie was doing them. They zoom in on her during a few spins and jumps, and the CGI is pretty easy to spot.
If you did check your incredulity at the door, it all works. If that isn’t something you can do, the fourth-wall breaking and logical inconsistencies of the movie might have you giving the movie a bad score. In case of involuntary eye-roll, just shut your eyes and enjoy the music: it rocks.
If you liked Guardians of the Galaxy or Baby Driver style musical mix-tapes, you’re gonna love the I, Tonya soundtrack. From Fleetwood Mac to ZZ Top, this soundtrack grooves. The ambiance of trailer-park America is a character in this film, almost as important to the story as Tonya Harding and Jeff Gilooly. And just like a well thought out skating routine, the music pairs perfectly with the action.
Gold Medal Performance
I’m intrigued by both Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan. I’ve seen enough out of the two of them to believe them capable of a brilliant performance; they just haven’t given it to me yet. While they are good in I, Tonya (and Robbie really sells an emotional late scene), the gold goes to Allison Janney. She is wickedly brilliant as LaVona, Tonya’s monstrous mother. After that performance I bet Disney is thinking about rebooting 100 Dalmations… again… just to use her as Cruella Deville. She’s that wicked.
I, Tonya had me hooked until “The Incident”. The plot to take out Nancy Kerrigan is ostensibly the only reason for this story to exist, but I thought it was the least interesting part. Having lived through the event, I am well aware of the attack, and the weeks long media circus that ensued. It wasn’t terrible, and had some memorable moments (cough “Gloria” cough), but it bogged the movie down for me. It might interest people who didn’t live through the constant media bombardment, so take my complaint with a grain of salt.
Sticks the Landing
The final act is riveting. The 1994 Olympics, the trial, and Tonya’s stint as a celebrity Boxer were all fantastic, and they end the movie on a strong, stylish note. This move isn’t concerned with messages, or sorting out the truth, or having a moral. It’s just a visual document about a cultural moment. It weaves a tale that is funny, sad, outrageous and pitiful. It’s an imperfect movie about highly imperfect people, and I think it’s worth your attention.
Unfortunately, I doubt you’ll get to see it, as it was crafted solely for me, and now that it has completed it’s mission of making me watch it I, Tonya will most likely disappear. Sorry, not sorry.