‘I, Tonya’ is a biographical dark comedy-drama film retelling the life of former Olympic figure skater, Tonya Harding. She was the first American woman to complete a triple axel during competition. Things seemed to be on the way up for Tonya until 1994 when her husband at the time made a decision that ruined Harding’s career completely.
I love watching the Olympics. I’m always glued to a TV whenever the Olympics are on. I’m sure we all have our favourite sports to watch during the prestigious tournament, but when it comes to the Winter Olympics, my favourite sport to watch is figure skating. Imagine my friend’s surprise when I shared my interest in seeing ‘I, Tonya’ yet had never heard of Tonya Harding before.
I’m not sure why I hadn’t heard of Tonya Harding prior to the movie. Perhaps it’s because it was before my time, or because I’m not American and foreign athletes aren’t general knowledge for me (unless they play tennis). So, when I did watch ‘I, Tonya’, everything was new to me; who she was, her relationship with her husband, her mum, her country and the controversy. I was observing everything for the first time with no prior opinions.
The film’s narrative is told via interviews with each characters’ version of the truth combining to create a faux documentary. During the film, the characters also often break the 4th wall to speak to the audience. I believe my favourite out of the interviews was Allison Janney’s portrayal of Tonya’s mum LaVona Harding. LaVona is seen as blunt, insensitive, tough and abusive. I’m still in two minds about whether she loved her daughter given her actions in the film, but their relationship is turbulent at best.
Sebastian Stan plays Jeff Gillooly, Tonya Harding’s husband. He is emotionally dependent, violent and reckless. Despite all his wrongdoings, you can’t really hate his character. You hate what he did, yes, but you don’t necessarily hate him. He sacrifices his dreams to help Tonya pursue hers and although his heart may be in the right place, his actions speak otherwise and his decisions burden Tonya more than help her. If anything, I feel sorry for his character more than anything else. The great dynamic between Tonya and Jeff in the film is all down to the convincing and strong chemistry Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan have with each other.
Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Tonya Harding is superb. Even though she doesn’t look anything like Tonya Harding, she embodies the Olympian’s spirit so well in her performance. I never had an opinion on the controversy to begin with, but my findings after viewing the film broke my heart.
‘I, Tonya’ is essentially a tragedy. The players are known, the ending is known, but the reason to watch this film is to see a version of truth that wasn’t force fed by the media back in 1994. And to also see Margot Robbie kill it on ice. The actress practiced for 5 months prior to filming and I really think that it’s paid off, considering she’s nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress now. I had to keep reminding myself that ‘I, Tonya’ is based on true events because the more the story unfolded, the more insanely far-fetched everything sounded. But I guess at the end of the day, real life drama is always crazier than the movies.