I, Tonya – A darkly comical mockumentary about true events

Posted on 5 March 2018
By Roisin Gordon
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I, Tonya explores the true story about disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding, who became infamous following her connection to the attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan.

It takes a dark comedic approach to the true events and is filmed in the style of a mockumentary, which results in a hilarious and outrageous script, along with strong performances from its lead actresses.

The film takes us through Tonya Harding’s (Margot Robbie) life, leading up to the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. We see her eventual rise from child prodigy to underdog competitor, as well as her eventual downfall following the media frenzy surrounding the controversy.

It also focuses on her tumultuous relationships with her overbearing mother LaVona (Allison Janney), who pushed Tonya into skating at a young age and abuses her daughter no matter how hard she tries.

We also see the ups and downs of her relationship with her husband Jeff Gilloolly (Sebastian Shaw), who initially proved to be an escape for Tonya from her abusive mother, but their relationship soon soured as Jeff also turns out to be abusive, and we see how his actions led to her downfall.

The story of Tonya Harding is an outrageous but fascinating one, portraying her as a tragic figure, as someone who received a lot of abuse and is treated like an outsider, she still had to fight all her life to succeed, even though the odds are against her.

Although the film serves as a build up to the infamous incident, Nancy Kerrigan is not the focus of the story. It’s more about Tonya Harding’s life, seeing how she had to fight to rise to the top and how it was all snatched away from her.

It was interesting to see how much of Tonya’s upbringing shaped who she became. Having been pushed into skating at a young age and with it all she has known, it allows you to understand her desperation to succeed.

Tonya Harding is portrayed as a tragic figure, with the abuse she received from her mother growing up, Tonya had the mindset that she deserved to be beaten by her husband. In spite of all this, Tonya never gives up and keeps pushing to succeed.

It shows that the world of figure skating, is not too dissimilar to beauty pageants as they judge on appearance. They are shown to have come from privileged backgrounds and have a graceful and wholesome image, unlike the brash and unkempt Tonya who is constantly looked down upon by the judges.

This is shown in a scene, where Tonya confronts a judge over her low score, and they remind her that they also take presentation into account.

The fast paced editing works brilliantly with the mockumentary style, especially how they show the “interviews” of each character and then cut to a scene, where the actors break the fourth wall by carrying on the interview so nonchalantly.

Margot Robbie delivered a superb performance as Tonya Harding, perfectly balancing both comedy and drama to the character, so that you become invested in her journey.

She captures the raw and brash fighter in her that drives her to succeed, instead of the pristine ice princess that she was expected to become, showing that Harding could be prone to foul mouthed outbursts and making bad decisions.

Robbie also does a good job at showing her more broken and vulnerable moments, which allows you to sympathise with Tonya.

Allison Janney stole every scene she was in, and really deserved her Oscar win for best supporting actress. She portrays LaVona unlike any pushy mother you’ve seen before, she is verbally and domestically abusive towards Tonya and never seems to show any remorse for her actions, claiming she was making Tonya a champion.

Despite her awful traits, you can’t help but find yourself entertained by her antics, including her foul mouthed one liners and paying an audience member to heckle Tonya before a performance.

Sebastian Stan delivers a great performance as Jeff Gilloolly, who like Janney displays some not-so- nice traits, but has some really funny scenes, and good on-screen chemistry with Robbie that you enjoy watching him.

Paul Walter Hauser also has some scene stealing moments, as Tonya’s bodyguard Shawn. He wants the recognition of being a good bodyguard, but shows to be more bumbling than he does threatening when his actions end up doing more harm than good.

I, Tonya is a darkly comical look at a misunderstood figure, as well as treating us to fantastic performances from Allison Janney and Margot Robbie.

Purple Revolver Rating: 4.5/5