I, Tonya – Does Margot Robbie Skate to Success?

Projected Film: I, Tonya Review

Runtime: 120mins | Director: Craig Gillespie | Rating: 4.5 Stars

I must admit, before going to see I, Tonya I wasn’t that excited about it. It was a film that I had wanted to see but wasn’t at the top of my list and so I left it quite late. After seeing it, I regret not going sooner – it was fantastic, and in my opinion, a very underrated film of 2017/18 that deserved more attention.

I, Tonya tells the story of the infamous (for nearly all the wrong reasons) ice skater, Tonya Harding who becomes embroiled in one of the biggest sporting scandals the world has seen to date.

Based around faux interviews of the characters discussing their various interpretations surrounding the events that occurred, the film opens with LaVona Fay Golden (Allison Janney), a young Tonya’s (McKenna Grace) mother convincing coach, Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) to take her on.

From the outset, it’s clear the abusive and dysfunctional relationship Tonya and her mother will have when she says she can’t leave the rink to go to the toilet as she needs to practice. Consequently, Tonya wets herself and is told to skate it off. After all, LaVona uses every penny she earns waitressing to pay for Tonya’s skating so why should she be allowed a break? Something she is all too eager to constantly remind Tonya about.  

Time passes, and Tonya (Margot Robbie) grows up to become a tough competitor on the rink. When Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) shows her some kindness though, something she isn’t used to, she falls in love and marries him. This happy relationship soon turns sour and he abuses her too, only adding to her emotional distress.

If having an abusive mother and husband wasn’t enough to deal with, Tonya soon realises she isn’t being treated fairly on the ice either when the judges make it abundantly clear that she, a ‘white trash’ girl barely scrapping the poverty line, isn’t who they want to represent the sport. After all, only wealthy, well-spoken and well-dressed girl’s ice skate, right?

Wrong. And she becomes the greatest ice skater in the world being the only woman to have ever landed a Triple Axel. At least for a brief period until the infamous incident occurs which Tonya becomes entangled in and brings her world crashing down around her once again.

Projected Film: I, Tonya

So, what made I, Tonya so good?

First off – Margot Robbie is sensational and gives her best performance to date.

Previously, she hasn’t been given a proper chance to shine in my opinion. Admittedly, she made a fantastic Harley Quinn in the abysmally bad Suicide Squad and was its only saving grace, but still, it wasn’t a truly memorable role. I, Tonya, however, allows her to finally show off her talent.

Portraying a person who is as complex as Tonya Harding due to her fractious upbringing and abusive life isn’t an easy task, yet Robbie makes it seem so. Whether she’s gracefully skating across the ice, hurling abuse at unjust judges, or caked in poorly applied make-up, dreading the competition ahead, she captivates and entertains.

Whilst Robbie gives her career best, so does Allison Janney who was deservedly awarded her Oscar last Sunday. The film is at its best when Robbie and Janney are sharing the screen demonstrating the unbelievable and complicated relationship Harding and her mother shared. Once again, I, Tonya allows Janney to show off what a wonderfully diverse actress she is - one I hope to see more of soon.

Projected Film: I, Tonya Review

That being said, like most films, I, Tonya isn’t perfect.

Its biggest flaw, in my opinion, is that whilst it suggests it is a film which will celebrate Tonya Harding and seek to amend some of the injustice she has suffered, in actuality, it ends up being just as judgemental as those it seeks to call out.

Throughout the film, Tonya suffers horrendous physical and emotional abuse, and for the most part, it is situated amongst comedy which undermines and distracts from her suffering. Whilst I can’t deny I found I, Tonya amusing, I think it would have been much better situated as something more dramatic with more moral weight.

Also, as is my problem with most films of late, there was some sloppy CGI when attempting to overlap Robbie’s face onto her double. At least it wasn’t Henry Cavill moustache bad though…

Regardless, with quick, flashy camera work, a stellar soundtrack and a genuinely unbelievable story which is bolstered by career-best performances from Robbie and Janney, I, Tonya is a hugely enjoyable film that shouldn’t be missed. Get your skates on and head to your nearest cinema to see it before it finishes!

To watch the trailer – click here.


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