I, Tonya (dir. Gillespie )

Image: Margot Robbie brings Tonya Harding’s shining moment to life © NEON [Source: IMDB]


It’s a story of the woman who gripped the western media back in the early 90s to her and women’s figure skating. Margot Robbie plays the foul-mouthed and rambunctious Tonya Harding, detailing her life generally but most importantly “the incident” and the undeniable black comedy surrounding it.

Director: Craig Gillespie. Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney. [15]

Most biopics are there to serve the purpose of informing you about the person in question, I, Tonya does display the troubled childhood up to the success and fame of Tonya Harding but for a person with so much ‘stranger than fiction’ events in her life, it’s a wonder why the film takes these stories in a fictional Coen Brothers comedy style. That’s not to say it’s ultimately a bad thing but I, Tonya could have been a very different kind of film and perhaps should have been considering the way in which Harding’s story is being put across.

I, Tonya plays much like an apology note and reassurance that Tonya Harding is, in fact, a person worthy of respect, contrary to the way she was used as a punchline throughout the late 90s. That is not to say that Tonya Harding has not been misjudged but more to the criticism of the film, that it fails to give any background to important people in the events or really any opposing views. It certainly attempts to capture the conflicting reports and wacky nature of events that surround her life, the film even opens with a message stating the nature of these conflicting reports and these interviews are true to life. This would not be an issue if the last half of the film did not concern itself with this event and was more about Tonya but it decided to play more as a dark comedy focused on her instead.

Thankfully it does the quirky, offbeat and downright hilarious characters and events justice, in that the comedy is executed well and the film is very entertaining but the cherry on top, is just as the film wraps one of the more hysterical comedic moments is displayed from the real interview and its equally if not more hilarious. Coupled with the entertaining comedy is surprisingly some sweeping camera work, the figure skating routines are executed with gusto and precision which aids in the empathetic look towards Harding as her skating skills become apparent, however, the film could have benefited from doubling down on this sympathetic agenda to give this narrative more impact.

Margot Robbie does fine mostly as Harding to aid this sympathetic look at Tonya’s life with a couple of stand out moments that push her performance to the highest it could be, sadly it’s not overly captivating but Robbie is engaging and refreshing. The show is figuratively stolen however by Allison Janney, who plays Tonya Harding’s estranged and monstrous mother, her performance is both lively and greatly amusing, as it is towering and sinister.

I, Tonya is an entertaining and hilarious darkly comedic look into the bizarre life and events of Tonya Harding, While the film does a great job of providing laughs and a fun time while learning a little about this pivotal women’s figure skater, it does little in the way of impactful storytelling and doesn’t quite give the film the eloquence it thinks it has.

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