Tonya Harding, when you hear that name depending on your age you may have varying responses – Oh god her, isn’t she that crazy disgraced Olympian or in most cases these days, who’s that? This is where director Craig Gillespie, Margot Robbie, and Sebastian Stan come in with the ridiculous biopic I, Tonya.
I, Tonya tells the story of not just the event that everyone associates with Tonya Harding (Robbie) but also of her life and how she was shaped into the woman that would do anything to reach the top. When the audience is first introduced to Tonya she is a child of 4 years of age and she has an unbelievable skill in figure skating she also has a terrifying mother in the imposing shape of LaVona Fay Golden (played by Allison Janney who is clearly having the time of her life in this role). As the years progress and we see Tonya’s talent grow but her personal life deteriorate the film makes it clear that Tonya, in her mind at least, see’s herself as the victim. After all her father leaves her at a young age to be raised by a mother who abuses her nonstop, in one scene particular throwing a knife that embeds itself in Tonya’s shoulder. Then when Tonya believes she has finally found love in Jeff Gillooly (Stan), a man whom she marries, she has a deeply turbulent relationship with him too. The issues in their marriage range from frequent beatings to the utterly terrifying moment where he almost blinds her with shrapnel from a gunshot. What makes this all the more fascinating is that Gillespie decides to shape the scenes with the characters breaking the fourth wall and the way they each have such contradictory stories about the same events leaves the audience wondering where is the truth in this messed up story of the futility of fame.
All of this is complimented by a pitch-perfect cast lead by Robbie who is outstanding in her portrayal of the battle-hardened figure skater. She’s broken but what is fascinating is how much she just wants to be loved and this is the driving force behind everything she does and through this you can empathise with her situation. She has a particular line that stuck with me about how by the end of it all everyone had become her abuser the whole world hurt her and it struck a powerful chord. As well as Robbie audiences are treated to what can only be described as a Disney villain on speed with Allison Janney’s performance as LaVona. She physically and psychologically abuses her child all in the name of that big trophy at the end of the rainbow but nothing is ever good enough for her.
On a note that is less sour but in no ways less ridiculous audiences are treated to what I can only describe as the MVP of this film and that is newcomer Paul Walter Hauser who plays Shawn Eckhardt a delusional fool who believes wholeheartedly that he is some kind of mastermind that orchestrated the whole fiasco that almost brought down the great Nancy Kerrigan. he steals the show every time he is on screen.
With I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie has crafted a cautionary tale in the most over the top style possible and has delivered a cluster f**k of terrifying characters and a situation that has to be seen to be believed, I loved it and you need to see it as soon as possible.