Words can hardly begin to describe I, Tonya. Yet they must. The movie is breathtaking, agonizing, hilarious, visceral, beautiful, devastating, human. Based on real interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly, I, Tonya brings to light the fascinating events surrounding the life and career of an incredibly resilient woman. I, Tonya is about skating, family, love, suffering, responsibility, determination, trust, forgiveness, fame, and justice. It transcends definition and genre. The film adopts Tonya Harding’s boldness in the way it defies the traditional narrative form. It weaves the interviews through the events and blends numerous styles seamlessly. In the few moments where the seams are noticeable, they serve the story wonderfully. The writing (Steven Rogers) is clear, purposeful, and crackling with vitality and power. I think the film has pioneered a new form of storytelling.
The performances are complete and pure. As such, they have immense emotional and intellectual impact. This is the ultimate achievement of the actor: to make himself or herself utterly transparent so that the character can exist fully and truthfully. Margot Robbie came extraordinarily close to achieving utter transparency. Her work is stunning. Her demonstration of Harding’s fierce feminine strength is profound. Her technicality is remarkable. Among a great many things, she trained for over 5 months in preparation for the skating routines, and she studied Harding’s distinctive accent intensely enough to improvise in character playing ages 15 to 46. Her understanding and exploration of the character are intimate, and she presents her discoveries authentically and generously.
Thank you, Margot Robbie, for sharing this story so selflessly. Your work, especially in the mirror scene and the final courtroom scene, is beyond inspiring.
The skating sequences are outstanding. Somehow the cinematography captures the dichotomy between the danger beneath the routines and the pristine exterior of the sport. The film also balances the fine line between drama and comedy. We all have both within us. I, Tonya portrays that humanity masterfully with a sharpness and gracefulness worthy of Harding’s skating and spirit.
I, Tonya is a splendid tribute to an incredible woman. It shows her courage, determination, flaws, and strengths with compassion and honesty. In an interview for the Hollywood Reporter, Tonya Harding thanked Margot Robbie for helping her establish her true story and let go of her past. I, Tonya helps us remember that we are capable of greatness even when the world says we won’t amount to anything.
Final Take: I, Tonya is a must see.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Screenplay: Steven Rogers
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale
Premiere: September 8, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Theatrical Release: December 8, 2017