Friday, March 2, 2018

Movie Review: I, TONYA (2017) Starring Margot Robbie


Director: Craig Gillespie
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson, Bojana Novakovic
Runtime: 120 min
Rating: R for pervasive language, violence, and some sexual content/nudity
Purchasing Links: DVD, Blu-ray

Read the review after the jump.

I, Tonya Movie Image 1


Review by Popa Razvan

Perhaps many of you who are reading this, or just some of you, have already heard of infamous figure skater Tonya Harding and the career-ending events that took place in 1994 which involved the maiming of rival skater Nancy Kerrigan. Directed by Craig Gillespie ("The Finest Hours"), the biopic "I, Tonya" takes a darkly comic look behind the scenes of those events, providing a sharp character study of one of America's most hated individuals.

I, Tonya Movie Image 3

For those of you who haven't heard about any of the above, here's a quick rundown of the true story. Tonya Harding, who is played in the film by Australian actress Margot Robbie ("The Wolf of Wall Street", "Suicide Squad") started out as a young prodigy skater, training since the age of four, while being beaten and humiliated by her abusive mother (Allison Janney). In a way her anger pushed her to become better, but it was also her downfall. She climbed the ranks in the 1980s and eventually became U.S. Champion in 1991 and 1994. Disaster struck when her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) decided to help Harding advance her career by breaking her opponent's knee.

The film traces Harding's problems back to her difficult childhood with a mother from hell, but also takes aim at her toxic relationship with Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), who provides an extension of her mother's abuses, which Harding accepts, because, as she explains, "My mom hit me and she loved me; he hits, he loves me". The incident involving Kerrigan cost Harding everything, and while she may not have been directly involved, she is partially to blame. The film points out this fact in several instances where she simply shrugs off everything bad in her life as not being her fault for various reasons. She continued to dodge responsiblity even as everything she worked for crumbled to pieces, and the movie doesn't let her off the hook for it. It might feel like the film is painting a sympathetic picture for the character, but it's really not.

I, Tonya Movie Image 2

Gillespie's assured direction and Steven Rogers' witty script rescue the film from being another dull sports drama by marrying biopic genre elements with a Scorsese-styled true crime drama. The mix never feels jarring and adds energy, fast pacing and dark humor to a complex portrait of one of America's infamous characters. It's not always original, but still finds a way to pack a punch, occasionally rising above what some have unfortunately labeled simply as the "Goodfellas" of figure skating.

And while the writing and directing are solid, the film's greatest asset is its cast. Robbie is riveting as Harding, Allison Janey is a scene-stealer whenever she's on screen, and Sebastian Stan probably crafts his finest role. There's also a lot of technical skill involved in the making of this film. The skating scenes are truly spectacular, blending Robbie's performance with her stunt double's work seamlessly, creating the illusion of a single tracking shot. The effect is electrifying and immersive.

I won't try to argue that "I, Tonya" is a groundbreaking biopic, because while it's an impressive achievement from everyone involved, it doesn't really bring anything new to the table. But it is a shining example of a biopic done right, thanks to an amazing cast, solid production values, sharp script and competent direction.



  • Excellent cast offering stellar performances across the board
  • Solid production values
  • Perfect mix of sports biopic and true crime drama sprinkled with lots of dark humor
  • Fascinating portrait of one of America's most despised personalities
  • Pitch-perfect writing and directing

  • Not particularly groundbreaking despite an interesting mix of genres



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