We all are familiar with how a sports film develops: a talented person with low potential gets two exciting opportunities. During the first one, one fails and finally during the second one, one wins. We all celebrate, cry, smile and applaud with the winner. We watch the screen with satisfaction because our hero had finally made it! Indeed, we feel his or her victory as our own. And then… the movie credits scroll. Well, I, Tonya is, luckily, not this kind of film.
THE REAL HISTORY OF TONYA HARDING
Of course, a director has many options to present an entertaining story about a sports star. But Craig Gillespie (“Lars and the Real Girl”) chose perhaps the most unusual one.
With the film I, Tonya, Gillespie gets us back in time. More precisely, he leads us through three decades, from the 70s to the 90s of the last century. It’s a time, when Tonya Harding becomes one of the most popular persons in the world.
First, Tonya becomes famous because of her talent as figure skater. She is the first American who presents the triple axel successfully in competition. Moreover, she takes part in the Winter Olympics two times.
Then, unfortunately, the woman from Portland, Oregon becomes much more popular because of the attack on fellow US Olympian Nancy Kerrigan. Until today, when people hear the name Tonya, they speak about this tragic event, but not about her successes in sports.
With a constant hint irony and a “mockumentary” style, Craig Gillespie presents a film that makes us laugh, weep, laugh again and experience strong moments of compassion toward Tonya Harding. It’s probably the best role that Margot Robbie has played until now.
The storyline reflects the rise and fall of Tonya Harding. In addition, it portrays her private life in a very intimate and emotional way. I, Tonya shows us, that often there is more to it than meets the eye.
TONYA HARDING (MARGOT ROBBIE)
I, Tonya shows us a story of a girl from a humble background. A young woman, who longs for love and respect. We meet a fragile but strong person, with limited education and means.
Her whole life, Harding wants to be accepted as the one, who she is. But there is just one thing that Tonya could do well – very well in fact – figure skating. However, as typically for her entire life, Harding does it in her own way.
Unfortunately, it’s a way that doesn’t match the expectations of the jury. Indeed, Tonya isn’t the typical skater princess who choose a standard Tchaikovsky composition for her choreography.
On the contrary, Tonya is more comfortable with rock songs like “Sleeping Bag” from ZZ Top. Her choice has, of course, its price.
Hollywood’s certainly most attractive actress, Margot Robbie, stars in the role of the controversial athlete. Robbie plays the teenager, the popular sports girl as well as the older Tonya, who looks back to her life. However, Robbie performs all periods of Harding’s life very convincing and emotional. She shows the facets of a person, who is overtaken by events.
LAVONA GOLDEN (ALLISON JANNEY)
Tonya grows up with perhaps one of the most heartless women we would ever see on screen, LaVona Golden. The very vulgar and cold-hearted woman earns her money as waitress in a restaurant. On the one hand, she invests her last Cent in Tonya’s career.
On the other hand, she can’t give her love and a real home.
LaVona is a woman who seems incapable of having feelings toward anyone. Moreover, she abuses Tonya incessantly physically and psychologically.
It’s a role that gave Allison Janney her first nomination in the Academy Awards. Well-deserved, Janney won the Oscar in the category Best Supporting Actress.
JEFF GILLOOLY (SEBASTIAN STAN)
Tonya’s live becomes more complicated when Jeff Gillooly enters her life.
Her first and only boyfriend is anything else than smart.
Although, he continues the abuses of her mother in a much more brutal way, Harding stays with him for years. So, Jeff seals her life finally.
In obsessive love, he tries to help her to achieve the nomination for the Winter Olympics. This leads to chaos and one of the most popular stories in the sports history.
Sebastian Stan stars as the “most hated man in America” – as Jeff is described in the movie. It’s hardly recognizable, that it’s the same guy who plays the Bucky Barnes in Marvel’s Avenger films. Brilliantly, Sebastian Stan performs the naïve, aggressive man, who destroys Harding’s life.
All those who think that a well-known real story cannot be presented in a new surprising way are wrong. Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers aren’t focused on the famous attack itself. But they show us the coherences as well as the human frailties that lead to chaos and change the life of a person forever.
The actors perform well above the average and the sense of humor is brilliant.
“I, Tonya” is an original and authentic film as well as its characters. The movie develops from the inside. As Kubrick would say – “A progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later”.
Therefore, with 7,5 points, I, Tonya is the VALEUR film tip of the week.
Text: Marco Kokkot & Maria José Rosales
Pictures © Clubhouse Pictures & LuckyCheap Entertainment