Director: Craig Gillespie
Actors: Margot Robbie, Allison Janney
4 (Out Of 5) 5 Globes
Plot: Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) is a hugely talented figure skater that is rejected by the uppity U.S. Figure Skating team because of her working class origins. At the same time, Harding is repeatedly abused through her life by her mother LaVona (Allison Janney) and then her on again/off again husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). When Harding’s place on the U.S. team is threatened by Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), though, Jeff and his friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) hire men to break her leg. But it soon links back to Tonya.
Review: There really isn’t a dull moment in “I, Tonya.”
It starts off at breakneck speed and doesn’t look back, as the film and its characters bulldoze their way through Tonya’s ascension to the top of the U.S. figure skating team in short, zippy, funny scenes that are backed by a catchy soundtrack. Key through all of this is “I, Tonya’s” repeated cut backs to its mockumentary interviews, which provide a backbone to the entire film that catapult it forward.
But when “I, Tonya” arrives at and depicts the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, the incident that hasn’t just defined Tonya Harding but turned her into a pop culture punchline, it wisely changes pace, which gives you time to absorb and try to piece together the absurdity of what really happened on that fateful night in January 1994.
All the while, “I, Tonya” is constantly elevated by two of the most impressive performances of the year. As Harding, Robbie unleashes an extra dimension to her acting talents. Fearlessly carrying the film, while dancing between comedy and drama, and on at least two occasions she will leave you dazzled with the emotion she conveys.
While numerous nominations are the least that Robbie can expect, Allison Janney, as Tonya’s charismatically offensive mother, is so rude, in your face, and immense that she is immediately the front-runner for the Best Supporting Actress gong.
There’s a surprising depth to “I, Tonya,” too, as the sheer resilience of Harding stirs. Especially since it works on numerous levels, from her fight against the class system to disconnecting from the abuse that followed her, and then trying to overcome her unwanted legacy.
Unfortunately, “I, Tonya” moves too quickly and incorporates too many different points of views to ever make these elements really connect, while the skating scenes flounder because of some very ropey special effects.
But that’s nowhere near enough to derail “I, Tonya,” as its exuberance and energy alone mean it is one of the most watchable films of 2017.