A cigarillo-smoking mother pulls her tiny daughter onto an ice rink. Leaving a trail of expletives and shocked parents left in her wake, Tonya Harding’s mother is only interested in one thing: getting her daughter taught by the top local skating coach. Buffeting away both concerns and class prejudice, Tonya’s uncompromising ascension to Olympic figure skater begins as it ends – with a tirade. By turn, loud, candid and also wildly surreal, hers is a life that will go onto to become a national sensation and a memory that will overshadow her sport forever.
’I, Tonya’ is a film that makes for electric viewing…
In charting Tonya’s Harding rise from low rent obscurity, director Craig Gillespie’s biopic is a vivid reflection by all those who lived inside her Olympic dream. Loud-mouthed, boisterous and frequently violent, this is a movie that wears its trashy heart on its sleeve. An unapologetic distillation of claims and counter claims, with each character competing for their version of the ‘truth’, ‘I Tonya’ makes for an evening of electric viewing.
Through out it all, Margot Robbie’s defining performance as the titular Tonya shines both on and off the skating rink. Frequently braking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly, this is a life told from many different angles. From Sebastian Stan’s feckless husband Jeff Gillooly to Paul Walter Hauser’s sublime turn as slimy Shawn Eckhardt, ‘I Tonya’ is replete with comic absurdity and self-interested nobodies. None more so is this more personified than by LaVona Fay Golden as Tonya’s mother. Wrapped in a brown fur coat that looks like it was ripped off the back of some unfortunate sofa, her withering put-downs are the stuff of legend. Floating above the heads of their intended targets, her barbs eschew any kind of motherly love and instead dive bomb Tonya’s confidence, carpet bombing her future from a distance.
Scintillating as it is scabrous, ‘I, Tonya’ is less a confessional tract and more of a full frontal assault on the America dream. Played out under the glare of the media and a mother who caustically checks her child’s every move, Tonya’s life is an absorbing study of a wild talent teetering on the edge of greatness. In a real-life tale that is so bizarre it’s hard to believe, be fortunate that others lived it so you can now enjoy this deliciously sour movie.