I, Tonya is a very enjoyable film. It has surprising depth, plenty of humor, and a brazen attitude and rhythm that you can’t help but get wrapped up in.
Yet, for all of these qualities, there is one aspect of “I, Tonya” that doesn’t just repeatedly let it down, but also drags you out of the film completely; its use of CGI to put the face of Margot Robbie over the extremely talented figure skater that replicated all of Tonya Harding’s moves.
“I, Tonya’s” presence in uncanny valley becomes so noticeable that I thought it might be part of the film’s meta approach, and even assumed that it would be brought up by one of the characters at some point.
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The fact that it isn’t means that the poor CGI quickly manifests into the elephant in the room, and thus I wasn’t able to commit my full attention to the figure skating scenes that were so integral in highlighting Harding’s talent. Instead, I just spent those sequences trying to spot the poor use of the technology, and then when I noticed it I immediately felt a mixture of pride and disappointment.
Of course, no-one expected Margot Robbie to perform the more complicated and strenuous figure skating dances. But we did expect the team behind “I, Tonya” to do a better job convincing us that she had.
Luckily for “I, Tonya,” the film’s appalling CGI seems to have been mostly overlooked by critics, who have instead focused on the superb performances of Margot Robbie and Alison Janney and the aforementioned qualities that make it one of the most watchable films of the year.
That’s the way it should be, too. But other films haven’t been so lucky. Particularly “Justice League.” The DCEU blockbuster was repeatedly and brutally admonished for its shocking attempt to remove Henry Cavill’s moustache, which Paramount insisted needed to remain during Joss Whedon’s reshoots as the English actor was still filming “Mission: Impossible 6.”
As a result, during particular “Justice League” scenes, Henry Cavill’s top lip looks paralyzed. Admittedly, “Justice League” was savaged critically for many other reasons. But Cavill’s stiff upper lip came to epitomize what was wrong with the film.
It’s no surprise that audiences have become much more sensitive to these verges into the uncanny valley, though, as we’re now so overwhelmed by imagery that we’re immediately aware of anything that looks slightly peculiar.
However, it’s not all been so bad for the CGI artists out there. Last month “Call Me By Your Name’s” Armie Hammer revealed “they had to go back and digitally remove [his] balls” from the film” due to just how ridiculously small his shorts are.
Sometimes you’ve just got to take the small victories.