Friday, January 12, 2018

A Glass Of Wine At The Movies - I, Tonya

I, Tonya

Rating: 14A

Director: Craig Gillespie

Language: English

Length:  121 minutes

Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney

Viewing Method: Regular Theatre Screening

Synopsis: Based on the unbelievable but true events, I, TONYA is a darkly comedic tale of American figure skater, Tonya Harding, and one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with an infamous, ill-conceived, and even more poorly executed attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan. Featuring an iconic turn by Margot Robbie as the fiery Harding, a mustachioed Sebastian Stan as her impetuous ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, a tour-de-force performance from Allison Janney as her acid-tongued mother, LaVona Golden, and an original screenplay by Steven Rogers, Craig Gillespie’s I, TONYA is an absurd, irreverent, and piercing portrayal of Harding’s life and career in all of its unchecked––and checkered––glory.

**purchased ticket to review on my own**

Anyone who remembers the assault on Nancy Kerrigan may feel that there is nothing new that could be said about it, and they would be right. I, Tonya is a darkly humourous movie that loses a little bit of steam by asking you to feel sorry for someone who, depending on whose version of events you believe, I am not certain we should feel sorry for.

The movie never attempts to clarify what Harding knew, or didn't know, about the attack. It doesn't present any version of events as the truth. The movie is mostly based off interviews with Harding, and Gillooly with each giving contradictory versions of what happened. It, therefore, ends up being a 'he said/she said' narrative where everyone points fingers at the other. Everyone has their version of the truth, but everyone knows that the real truth is usually somewhere in between.

Harding is shown in a sympathetic light. Abused by both her mother and husband (both of whom deny the abuse allegations), it is easy to feel sympathy for her. The abuse she is shown to have suffered is horrible, especially the childhood verbal abuse by her mother. The movie also, however, includes the fact that Kerrigan's practice location and times were found written on a piece of paper in Harding's hand writing. It reminds you at every turn that all of these characters are unreliable narrators of their own stories.

Margot Robbie gives a transformative performance that, along with Allison Janney's biting performance, stood out during this movie. I could tell that she put in the time, and effort to get this performance right. She physically transformed and ensured that she got the mannerisms pitch perfect. Her performance is big and showy in a way that matches the loud and showy tone of the movie. It's a performance that fits into this setting effortlessly.

Sebastian Stan has the thankless role of Jeff Gillooly, Tonya's ex-husband. He does great work in the role of someone you are supposed to dislike immensely. He was equally capable as the more mild mannered guy telling his version of events, and the violent, triggered temper nightmare of Harding's version. The movie also makes the unforgivable sin of putting Sebastian Stan in that awful mustache.

I love movies that break the 'fourth wall' and have the characters talk directly to the audience. When this is done effectively it is a brilliant narration choice, and I, Tonya uses it to perfection. The 'audience as interviewer' feel that the movie has certainly lends itself to using this narration convention. It also provides much of the humourous moments of the movie. I had mixed feelings on some of the humour, especially the moments that occur during rather graphic spousal violence, but if you like your humour with bite than this hits all those notes.

I, Tonya is, ultimately, a movie made better by the performances found within it. The movie itself may not have anything new or different to say about Tonya Harding, but the performances, along with the extremely dark humour, make it worth the watch.

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