The 1990’s brought about quite a few memorable moments that have been etched in time. The beating of Rodney King and the Los Angeles riots that followed shortly after. O.J. Simpson being found not guilty by a jury of his peers. A draft dodger is elected President of the United States of America. And then there was the crippling of Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. The world was shocked when a man smashed her leg with a baton for (at the time) unknown reasons. So, does “I, Tonya” deliver the answers to the question of why or do we score this film with zero’s across the board? Let’s dive in and take a look in this review.
The story examines the life of competitive figure skater Tonya Harding (played by Margot Robbie). We get to meet her devious and despicable mother (played by Allison Janney), her future husband/ex-husband (played by Sebastian Stan), his best friend Shawn (played by Paul Walter Hauser) and many other characters as the story of her life unfolds. The overall point of the film isn’t as simple as merely “this is what happened in Detroit in 1994.” It’s a layered look at the abusive lifestyle Tonya grew up in and how she views herself as a victim/survivor through it all. We get to hear from the people in her life during this time as well and how they perceived things. It also examines the events from the view point of a “journalist” named Martin Maddox (played by Bobby Cannavale). It’s this back forth exploration of people’s recollection of events and how they might or might not be similar to the story that we knew of (assuming you’re as old as I am or older) that really made this an engaging movie.
The performances given by Robbie and Janney are superb. There’s an entire close up on Robbie’s face as she’s getting ready to compete that shows incredible emotional range and believability. Janney plays the role of wicked mother to perfection and she seems to do it effortlessly. Finally, the big surprise for me was neither of those performance but Paul Walter Hauser. I am not overly familiar with his work and he plays the most calm, crazy and absurd character. His character felt like something from a comedy but then you realize his character is actually based on a real life person who possibly, truly, thinks and acts that way. His performance elevated the film to new heights. The mosaic of personalities was so rich that every second on screen felt like this insane comedy that was both disturbing and hilarious. Upon leaving the theater, I actually wondered if I was supposed to laugh as much as I did considering the topic of the film. However, this movie balances humor with insanity so well that I was completely satisfied with my time spent in the theater.
“I, Tonya” is in theaters now. I definitely recommend a big screen viewing only so that you enjoy all the shocking moments on screen in a room full of strangers who also love movies. This is an incredible story that looks at life from several vantage points and it does so brilliantly. I would honestly be surprised if this film isn’t up for consideration come the Academy Awards this year. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney are absolutely delivering some of the best performances in this film. I was completely overwhelmed by how much I enjoyed this movie, the cast of characters and how the story is delivered. I am definitely recommending you get out and see this film on the big screen. Check it out!