I, Tonya the latest film from director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), is based on the life of former U.S. figure skater Tonya Harding. A two-time Olympian, Harding is best known for her connection to a 1994 attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. It wasn’t long before the attack was traced back to her bumbling bodyguard Shawn Eckardt and her husband Jeff Gillooly.
Written by Steve Rogers (Hope Floats) the story begins in present-day. Long divorced, and with very different perspectives, Tonya (Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street) and Jeff (Sebastian Stan, Captain America: The First Avenger) take us through their life together using extended flashbacks, and occasionally breaking the fourth wall. We also meet a sleazy Hard Copy producer (Bobby Cannavale) who reminds us just how tabloid-ready the incident was, it was “a story populated solely by boobs.”
Then there’s Tonya’s mother, LaVona Golden (Allison Janney, The Girl on the Train). Often married, and frequently single, Tonya is her sixth child from her forth husband. Dirt poor, chain smoking, foulmouthed and abrasive, Golden pushes her skate obsessed 3-year-old into a children’s class so one day she might land a job in “the Ice Capades or something.” She shows no outward signs of love toward her daughter, demands that she become a tough competitor, and regularly tells her she won’t amount to anything. However, Tonya was a success, winning several JV trophies before she was in her teens, leaving competitors in the dust with her sheer athleticism.
A self-described Oregon “redneck” and high school dropout, Harding was an awkward fit in the prim world of figure skating. Her homemade costumes, and rock n’ roll routines fail to get the get the respect the judges awarded to fellow competitor Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), who was elegant and refined, but didn’t have Tonya’s athleticism.
In her teens, Tonya met Jeff Gillooly. He’s sweet at first, but soon starts hitting her. They have the kind of up and down relationship you might expect. It’s during one of their estranged periods that Jeff sends Kerrigan a threatening letter to scare her off the ice. But, that only leads to a bigger plan that Jeff hoped would take Nancy out of competition for the foreseeable future, and lead Tonya to Olympic gold…
I Tonya is funny, but there’s an uncomfortable edge to it. Even as you’re chuckling, you may wonder, “Why am I laughing? During a fight with Jeff, Harding wields a shotgun. As she pumps another shell, she pauses and tells the camera, “I never did this.” I couldn’t help but smile. Margot Robbie effectively captures Harding’s toughness, but also elicits a vulnerability and even some sympathy for her. I found the later especially surprising given her refusal to accept any responsibility for the attack. However, the real highlight of the film is the performance of Allison Janney. Every scene as LaVona Golden is Brilliant. She’s not an easy character to play because she doesn’t have any likable qualities, but Janney manages to make her human. Not an easy task.
Presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the mockumentury style of this film means it’s supposed to have a bit of a gritty look. Close-ups are strong, revealing pores, stubble, moles, etc. Textures and detail are top notch throughout. Black levels are deep and inky. Colors are appropriately vibrant. Skin tones appear natural throughout. There’s a layer of grain throughout, which is perfect for this presentation.
The English DTS-HD MA 5.1 is nothing fancy, but it does a very good job with the material. The rock heavy soundtrack is well presented here, and dialogue is clean and clear. While the rears don’t offer much in the way of effects, there’s a nice sense of fullness.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Director Craig Gillespie
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 17:25)
- Behind the Scenes (15:53) Five brief EPKs.
- Trailers (HD, 5:42)
- Digital HD
Movie title: I, Tonya (2017)
Director(s): Craig Gillespie
Actor(s): Margot Robbie Sebastian Stan , Allison Janney Mckenna Grace , Bojana Novakovic Julianne Nicholson
Genre: Biography, Sport, Drama
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