I did not expect a film about a figure skater to have so much swearing in it, but then again, after seeing it I cannot imagine any other way of telling such a biting and startling story.
I, Tonya tells the colourful tale of Tonya Harding, from her childhood under the oppressive boot of her mother, to her professional skating career and her abusive relationship with her husband. Culminating in the events surrounding the infamous attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan, this film is an incredible exploration of the volatility that dominated Harding’s life.
The performances are excellent across the board. Margot Robbie is the best she has ever been. Her portrayal is completely convincing and she really inhabits the role given to her. It is clear that her preparation was extensive and well-executed. In fact, she reportedly even performed some of the more complicated skating routines. Paul Walter Hauser is another highlight in this film, playing Harding’s ‘bodyguard’. He is effortlessly funny and awkward, and his role in the attack on Kerrigan is definitely a highlight of the film.
But the most praise should be given to Alison Janney, who plays Harding’s mother. She is absolutely despicable, controlling and abusive, which is testament to her performance. I would be surprised if she does not bag a few awards over the coming months.
The screenplay is satirical, funny and biting, but it also manages to provide some incredibly emotional and impactful scenes. Steven Rogers has delivered his best work, complementing Craig Gillespie’s direction perfectly. Gillespie, whose previous work includes the excellent comedy Lars and the Real Girl, manages to utilise fast-paced editing and handheld camerawork to add energy to the action-packed scenes and subtle realism to the more emotional moments.
A standout moment is the scene surrounding the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, I will not spoil it, but it is tense and heart-racing with a slight comedic edge, a common motif throughout the film. Visually, the film is shot with a nostalgic feel; colourisation has been utilized excellently and the viewer is completely transported to the 80’s. This is helped by the wonderful costume work and production design.
Overall, I,Tonya is a funny, fast-paced fresh take on the biographical film genre that has incredible performances and a superb direction.