Boasting an icy fresh performance by Margot Robbie – ‘I, Tonya’ is as emotionally layered as it is recklessly entertaining.
Directed by Craig Gillespie ‘I, Tonya’ stars Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan — following the true story of Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding this “dramedy” biographical styled film mixes documentary elements with a few other genres. That mix up of genres certainly comes with a distinctively mixed flavour of storytelling with it.
Though many already know the story of Tonya Harding and the events surrounding her controversial life, we will keep the story and details to a minimum. Going in we had some initial worries, as a problem with many of these types of “he said, she said” films tend to unfairly show one side of the coin, to our surprise there were a nice selection of moments that showed either perspectives could have been true or false at any given time. Though it was far from perfect, certainly a small bias existed towards Tonya. This film also missed out on developing key people that were of huge importance to the events of that time, such as Nancy Kerrigan, she was a major component of Tonya Harding’s entire journey, yet she is only briefly touched upon. The lack of development of her character made the film feel like it was attempting to dehumanise her situation too much as a way for us to root more for Tonya.
At the very centre of this film lies the gripping and multilayered performance by Margot Robbie; Margot plays Tonya at multiple stages throughout her life from a teenager to her later years, each age has a different personality to it but keeps consistent in Tonya’s belief about how unfair the system she performed within was. Margot’s portrayal of Tonya carries both a sense of strength and weakness simultaneously, breaking down into tears one moment, then exploding into a vicious plume of fiery anger the next moment. We also get a magnificent performance from Allison Janney playing the staunch, cruel, and tough loved mother – her crusted and vile personality was a stark reminder of motherhood gone wrong, being both a pleasure and displeasure to view at the same time. Sebastian Stan does offer up a solid performance but is overshadowed by the presence of Robbie and Janney.
This film lands right on the bullseye with its digital implementation of Margot as a professional figure skater, with plenty of shots showing Robbie in clear view performing a feat that CGI and clever editing made reality. The costumes and makeup really bring the film to life where other components couldn’t, with the makeup being a very strong component. We get some of the best lighting used on characters in this documentary style, with duller colours showing the present and brighter colours showing the past, we also get some brightly vivid shots of Tonya in her weakest moments.
Overall, director Craig Gillespie managed to formulate a rich and wildly entertaining story with interesting back and forth interpretations, he consistently kept the audience guessing which reality might be true while retaining a light tone in quite a dark story. ‘I, Tonya’ was a lot of fun from a director that had a shaky reputation.