Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Produced by: Bryan Unkeless, Steven Rogers, Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley
Screenplay by: Steven Rogers
Cinematography by: Nicolas Karakatsanis
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Mckenna Grace.
‘I was loved for a minute, then I was hated – then I was a punchline.’
Based on one of the biggest scandals in sporting history, I, Tonya shows that truth can be fluid.
The film is structured around interviews with Tonya Harding (MARGOT ROBBIE), her now ex-husband, Jeff (SEBASTIAN STAN) and Tonya’s mother, Lavona (ALLISON JANNEY), when questioned about the surrounding circumstances that led to the knee-capping of rival ice skater, Nancy Kerrigan (CAITLIN CARVER).
What fascinated writer and producer, Steven Rogers about the project was just how different the stories told by Tonya versus Jeff were about the incident that ruined her career.
Tonya is candid in her re-telling of the events leading up to that fateful incident but with the contrasting perspective of Jeff, it’s hard not to question the truth of each story.
To demonstrate: the film makers show the continued falls of Tonya on the ice, her re-telling of the episodes making the excuse of her blade being incorrectly repaired and out of alignment to flash backs of her unhealthy lifestyle of smoking and downing shots.
Although it’s difficult not to question the truth of the story, what the film gives the audience is the circumstances Tonya overcame to become an ice skating phenomenon – to this day, one of only six women in the world to make the triple axel.
And she did it 25 years ago.
A feat the film makers had to use visual effects to achieve because of the immense difficulty.
Currently, there’s only two skaters in the world to have any hope of pulling off the triple axel but are unwilling to risk injury in the lead up to competing in the Olympics.
What makes Tonya’s success all the more amazing is her difficult upbringing, as she states, ‘I don’t have a wholesome American family’.
With a mother who strives to make her angry because Tonya skates better when she feels she needs to push back, Lavona is shown in interview with cigi and pet bird on her shoulder included.
The film shows Tonya suffering abuse from her mother, pushing her to the limit from four years of age, through to her teenage years where she met Jeff who continued the abuse with his fists.
When news broke world-wide of the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, I remember thinking it was Tonya who did the deed. An incorrect assumption. And the film shows there’s so much more to the story than petty jealousy.
Oscar-nominated, Margot Robbie gives a gritty performance, digging deep to show the true nature and character of Tonya.
The highlight for me was Allison Janney as Tonya’s mother, Lavona – her performance had to be believable so the audience could digest her bizarre behaviour.
Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
And the difficulties and destructive nature of Tonya’s relationships are the humour in the film – it’s just so bad, it’s funny.
The structure of the film, with the narrative based on the interviews, to flash backs that either support or contradict what’s being said keeps the pace running – camera work of Tonya skating is used up close and personal giving a rawness and faster-paced action.
Yet, I felt I wanted just that little bit more from the script.
I was fascinated by the different perspectives and the perversion of truth. Yet, the incident of the knee-capping itself was down-played to the extent of a one-minute shot.
What’s a knee-capping compared to the abuse Tonya suffered her whole life?
The view taken was to show the other side of the story, not what was portrayed in the media.
The truth of the story? It’s all about perspective.