I, Tonya

Year: 2018
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Cast:  Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney

Written by Livia Peterson

Several forms of media have become an integral component of our lives. Television always seemingly provides negative stories of crime, illnesses, and depressing weather forecasts. Radio may regurgitate what we’ve seen via television, excluding music and sports stations. Motion pictures allow one to escape reality and immerse oneself into a fictional or nonfictional narrative.

It is difficult to distinguish between genuine, factual news and tabloid news, especially during the current “fake news” era. Tonya Harding’s attack on Nancy Kerrigan would be considered “fake news” and in consequence, we would either instantly read online articles or enjoy live television to learn about the news today. Believe it or not, this incident actually occurred. Thus, Craig Gillespie’s ‘I, Tonya’ could be considered Harding’s redemption story.

Young Tonya Harding (Mckenna Grace) competed in figure skating and meanwhile, the abusive mother LaVona (Academy Award winner Allison Janney, in this role) ensured her success. LaVona even forced Tonya to tinkle on the ice rink during one particular scene. As Tonya (Margot Robbie) matures and practices figure skating, she develops a relationship with Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan).

Numerous practice sessions occur prior to the 1994 United States Figure Skating Championships. Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) does not expect anything to happen, but Tonya may have a clue, regarding what could occur during a practice session. Yet, Jeff and the bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser) hire Shane Stant (Ricky Russert) to injure Nancy’s leg to provide Tonya an advantage and the getaway driver Derrick Smith (Anthony Reynolds).

Most of us recognise the aftermath of this incident, Tonya was removed from the U.S. Figure Skating Association for life and divorced Jeff and of course, Nancy remains in figure skating.

The title ‘I, Tonya’ is derived from Robert Graves’ historical novel ‘, Claudius’, written as if it were an autobiography by the Roman Emperor Claudius. Just the title alone indicates ‘I, Tonya’ is an unconventional biopic, as the film is narrated via several fictional interviews with Tonya, Jeff, LaVona, and a few others. While the interwoven interviews enhance the narrative providing various angles to the story, it is still obvious to notice the traditional biopic beats.

‘I, Tonya’ is a captivating character study of a bad ass woman that may or may not deserve redemption, as it thoroughly depends on if one lived during this era. Both Robbie and Janney disappear into their respective characters. While Robbie demonstrates how Tonya evolves in to a pop culture icon, Janney provides annoying bitchy mother LaVona and consequently, no one would want to piss her off. LaVona is a one dimensional and stereotypical mother. One may question why Janney deserved the Academy Award in the first place. 2017 provided fearless mothers onscreen among Janney’s LaVona, Frances McDormand’s Mildred Hayes in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’, and Laurie Metcalf’s Marion McPherson in ‘Lady Bird’ to name a few. Janney ultimately deserved the Academy Award for a different role such as ‘The Help’ and therefore, this is considered her career achievement award. The respectable supporting cast is arguably underused during a few fundamental scenes. Shane and Derrick required some character development and accordingly, one may be able to justify their actions.

‘I, Tonya’ impeccably examines today’s pop culture through a different lens and how the media reports various events. The media is dependent upon how we perceive the information given and free press is indeed vital to ensure news is provided, regardless of one’s circumstances. Ultimately, ‘I, Tonya’ allows one to construct their opinions about the Tonya Harding controversy and the media as a whole.

Livia’s Rating: 8/10


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