I, Tonya (2017)

‘America, they want someone to love, they want someone to hate’
Tonya Harding

I, Tonya is based on the real life story of American figure skater Tonya Harding, a self-confessed redneck who beat the odds to join the top ranks of the U.S Figure Skating Team only to have it all taken away by the actions of those around her including her ex-husband.

Ok, if you haven’t heard of Tonya Harding then you will do well in enjoying this film, if you have, then please park those thoughts at the door as you need to come at this fresh.

The opening monologue states this film is based on the irony free and contradictory story which tells you exactly what are you into. It is told in different ways, it is linear but each specific point in her life is countered by each person involved, for example we hear different points of how things went down from Tonya, her husband Jeff and her mother LaVona, these are either through narration talking to the interviewer or as it is now known breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the camera and audience, the style complimented and enhanced the story for me – though I always find this technique slightly lazy storytelling but on this occasion it was a good decision by director Craig Gillespie.

It has touches of Martin Scorsese (don’t why I always bring him up but I do) the way it is filmed handheld and closeups are reminiscent of Goodfellas and The Wolf on Wall Street – the language is also a little blue.

The film has a brilliant soundtrack ranging from Violent Femmes’ Gone Daddy Gone (recently covered by Gnarls Barkley – a particular favourite of mine), Siouxsie and The Banshees, Cliff Richard (er…yep), Dire Straits, Heart, Doris Day and Fleetwood Mac to name a few.

The acting is top notch, Margot Robbie is very good, her ability to go through the range of emotions Tonya suffered is amazing to watch – the scene when she is applying makeup is a fine example – it is a powerful scene, can makeup really cover up who/what she is – to quote Barack Obama ‘you can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig’.

Robbie is supported superbly by Sebastian Stan as her husband Jeff, he is good, on paper he should be a completely unlikeable character, but Stan makes him interesting and watchable even with that moustache. It is perhaps no real surprise that the scene stealing performance by Allison Janney as Tonya’s mother LaVona won her so many accolades and awards, she is very good. She is ice personified, cold, cruel and toxic, not sure if the real LaVona was like this but if she was then it is no real surprise she has been divorced a number of times – interesting fact Janney filmed her part in only 8 days.
I have to say I also liked the character of Shawn played by Paul Walter Hauser, he is very funny and also a scene stealer, perhaps should have also been nominated.

I really liked the film, definitely worth catching, it keeps you entertained and doesn’t play too much on probably one of the most hyped events in American figure skating.
There is a reporter also interviewed in the film played by Bobby Cannavale (fantastic in Boardwalk Empire) who says it best, it was 24 hour rolling news we had to give them something.

But at what price, here it looks like a lot of lives. It also begs the questions, how far would you go to win? And is winning really everything?
Interesting points, but now I’m off to get the soundtrack – she’s just a devil woman.

Rating 4/5

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