“An incredibly well acted, funny and heartbreaking tale about a woman who was dealt a crap hand in life and did the best she could with it.”
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Written by: Steven Rogers
Runtime: 120 Mins
Release: 23 February 2018 (UK)
Although I was alive during most of Tonya Harding’s years in the public eye I was at an age where little interested me outside what the cast of Rainbow were currently doing. So, despite having heard the name crop up over the years, I never bothered to look up just what happened in the run up to the 1994 Winter Olympics. I, Tonya deals with these events based on the wildly contradictory interviews with all those involved, and to say that I was blown away would be an understatement. If my later research had not told me that a lot of the events within this movie actually happened, I would have had a hard time believing it.
The film leans heavily into its contradictory nature; fluidly switching between interview style scenes, the more standard stuff, and then some fourth wall breaks to help reveal whose point of view we are currently witnessing. This quickly turned out to be a necessity as, like I stated earlier, the film is based on some wildly contradictory interviews and would not have worked if it was presented as a standard biopic; especially as the story involves a lot of She Said/He Said when it comes to the allegations of physical abuse.
The abuse surrounding Tonya Harding’s life is almost absolute and the film is not afraid to show it; from an aggressive mother, a husband that beats her, and even to the reaction she received from the public – something that is outrightly stated directly to camera in a scene that packs an incredibly powerful gut punch to anyone who simply followed along with what happened in the first few years of the 90’s.
Sitting at the forefront of this tale are Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, and Allison Janney; all of whom are incredible in this film.
Margot Robbie has an brilliant knack for this kind of performance, showing that her beauty does not hold her back to win the more in-depth roles. The role of Tonya is a hard one to fill; the audience has to feel sorry for her whilst also contemplating just how complicit she is during certain events yet, even with this doubt surrounding the character, Robbie’s performance almost brought me to tears during the films third act. I was invested, and that was what counted most.
Sebastian Stan has brilliant range in this. For someone not in the know about the characters abusive tendencies Stan’s performance instantly endeared me to him right up until his aggression was revealed, then allowed me to revel in his stupidity as the plot started to creep more and more out of his control.
Allison Janney is perfection and completely deserves her Oscar for this performance. I have loved Janney ever since watching her in The West Wing and am slightly saddened that it is only now that she is starting to get the recognition she deserves. She is a wonderful actress that had been working her arse off in the industry for years; give that woman more roles like this!
Although this film is populated with incredible actors I have to give props to Paul Walter Hauser who brilliantly recreated Shawn Eckhart, the disgustingly deluded ‘bodyguard’ of Tonya and the catalyst of a lot of the awful things that transpired within her life. It is not very often that I have wanted to reach through the screen to attack a character, but Hauser pulls off such an incredible display that I could not help but cringe whenever he was on screen. His portrayal almost comes off as unbelievable until you are shown actual footage of the real Shawn Eckhart over the closing credits, his performance is almost identical, albeit a tad more grotesque.
One thing that I wasn’t too pleased about in the film was the age of the actors compared to that of the characters they are playing. With Robbie in her late twenties, and Stan in his mid thirties, the fact that the characters were seen to be between 15 and 22 throughout the entire run of the film took me out of it slightly. Despite how well played the initial meeting of the pair was portrayed – Robbie’s mouth full of braces whilst Stan’s lip had an unfortunate moustache that remained for most of the film – seeing these actors try to play someone half their age reminded me that this was just a movie, unfortunately stopping it from becoming as engrossing as recent award season films Three Billboards and The Shape of Water.
But aside from that this is a very funny, heartbreaking tale about a woman who was dealt a crap hand in life and did the best she could with it.