Saturday, January 6, 2018

[Review] I, Tonya

I wasn't very old when the infamous Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan "incident" shattered headlines, but I definitely heard about it for years later -- something about a triple axel and a metal pipe to the kneecap. ESPN's great 30 for 30 documentary series covered the story in-depth with "The Price of Gold", and now, the Craig Gillespie-directed film I, Tonya dramatizes the dizzying life of Tonya Harding with sharp success -- a solid landing, if you will. It's not quite your average biopic. Not your average sporting event. And not your average character.

Margot Robbie laces up the blades and portrays the controversial figure skater, while the film's mockumentary set up glides through Tonya's rough upbringing and hostile relationship with her mother (played by greatly Allison Janney), who's quite frankly a monster, as well as the Olympian's rocky and abusive marriages, her rise to stardom, and yes -- the infamous incident (and the aftermath).

The film moves at a punchy pace, exhibiting a notable Martin Scorsese and current-period David O. Russell vibe, and it definitely does not shy away from being brash and gritty -- much like Tonya herself. And while the crazy, stranger-than-fiction story is told with vigor, the main draw here truly is Margot Robbie's fantastic performance as Tonya. She practically disappears into this role with immensely skilled grace, and she plays the character with dimension, nuance, sympathy, and memorable personality. In fact, the film loses a bit of its momentum during the stretches when the focus shifts toward Tonya's idiotic ex-husband and bumbling bodyguard (played by Sebastian Stan and Paul Walter Hauser, respectively) as they orchestrate and carry out the incident.

So, come for the bizarre narrative, stay for Margot Robbie and Allison Janney's shot at Oscar gold.

* 8.5/10 *

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