I, Tonya

Directed by Craig Gillespie who is best known for 2007’s Lars and the Real Girl and 2016’s The Finest Hours, I, Tonya is an incredibly entertaining dark comedy and compelling drama that is full of brilliant acting performances and shines as a result of its creative storytelling. The story revolves around the life of the infamous figure skater Tonya Harding, played by Australian actress Margot Robbie in her best performance, and her association with the brutal attack on fellow American ice skater Nancy Kerrigan. The filmmaker quite effectively reinforces the often ridiculous nature of the story by interspersing conventional film narrative with the mockumentary format by including interviews with the characters and the characters directly interacting with the audience. We first meet Tonya as a young girl forced to enter the world of competitive ice skating by her chain-smoking abusive mother LaVona, brilliantly played by Emmy Award winner Allison Janney. As Tonya progressively moves up the ranks of United States figure skating, her mother becomes increasingly vicious and does everything and anything to make sure she stays competitive at the expense of living a normal life. She eventually escapes her mother and moves in with her boyfriend and future husband Jeff Gillooly, played by Sebastian Stan, who is more supportive but ultimately turns out to be a bad influence. Coming from a rough background filled with abuse and poverty, Tonya feels she is unfairly judged at the competitions despite her almost technically perfect performances. As a result of her frustrations, she finds herself in a whole heap of trouble with the FBI after it is discovered that Jeff’s best friend and her bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt orders a pair of petty criminals to injure her fiercest competitor Nancy Kerrigan only a few weeks before the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Although it presents a rather tragic and complicated downfall of a truly talented athlete, the film brings a certain level of levity through the recreated contemporary interviews with the main characters who come off as either cruel, naive, or stupid. Furthermore, the preposterous circumstances and events portrayed make for some darkly hilarious moments, especially the actions of the dim-witted Shawn. Overall, I found it to be one of the most entertaining films of the year that paradoxically paints a sympathetic picture of the notorious Tonya Harding with the help of a stellar cast, particularly Margot Robbie and Allison Janney.

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