(4 / 5)
As the saying goes, there’s how you remember it, there’s how history will remember it and there’s what really happened. I, Tonya clearly has this in-mind from it’s inception, where it shows a story recounted by different characters that all see themselves as the others victim, disagree on the details and apologise for just about nothing.
The focal point is obvious the character that the movie is named after, Tonya Harding. We get footage that is set-up like a TV special on the people (again, focusing on Tonya). We see her, played by Margo Robbie, her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly played by Sebastian Stan and her mother LaVona played by Alison Janey. There are a few others but these are the pillars of the plot. Basically Tonya was an Olympic competitor and took home a few medals in her life but never got a any real recognition. She started skating at a really early age and kept it up.
Skating is clearly what Tonya lives for and all other aspects have no class or stability what-so-ever. Robbie has always been cast with attractive characters in mind, to be sure they were defined and she was very good at playing all the other roles but here she plays a character that requires her to be very rough around the edges. She cusses, is put into goody outfits that she has to make herself and smears the make-up on too heavy. And is very much realised in her performance, a smart choice and a wise move on Robbie’s part.
Jeff describes his time with Tonya and her mother like he found himself between two of the craziest human beings ever, one would attack psychologically while the other would fire a shotgun at him, also he denies hitting Tonya. Alison Janney as Tonya’s mother is one of the great beasts in movies. She operates on tough love and that greatness is forged in fire, so she makes Tonya’s life hell. It takes something for an actor to play this kind of character There are people that deal with challenges differently, some thrive with a challenge, others do better in calmer environments and others channel stress or nay-sayers into their best work. It seems that Tonya is the latter of these examples, when she has both verbal and physical abuse in her life right up to the point she skates she does what almost no other woman did in ice skating. When it’s the closest to stable/healthy she misses the landing.
An element that the movie puts forward is that Tonya brought home the gold or even the silver or the bronze because her great skating didn’t come in a pretty package. They want to present their winners and the besets prettiest girls from classic, wholesome American families. She was not this and therefore got a few points deducted.
I don’t know about any training Robbie went through for the skating scenes, in-fact it’s not even necessary these days, through digital manipulation you can put an actors face over the actual sportsman and you’d never know, there were also a few times when I could tell that her whole body was C.G.I. However none of this is really a detriment, I don’t need to know how much the actor put themselves through for a role or what parts aren’t authentic, what matters is what is on-screen before us. They are the highlights of the movie. The camera comes alive most in moments when the facts are ambiguous and it follows a character running and such, but there is the truest example of adding camera motion to give life to a scene in the sequences where she skates.
How accurate the movie itself is may vary on of few of the moments, that is however to be expected, we still a movie to flow narratively and adjust itself accordingly so to work as a movie. But how could it ever be properly chronicled with events this crazy and people in it this warped? It couldn’t really, what really happened happened and some things are indisputable while others we’ll have to just choose to believe. however one thing is for certain, at the end they show footage of some of the real people an how accurately they captured them, some of the footage is of Tonya skating, she sure was a great skater.