Movie: I, Tonya
My Rating: 5 stars
I’m not sure I would have wanted to see this movie if I hadn’t seen the trailer. The idea of a biopic about Tonya Harding didn’t immediately sound appealing to me. I was imagining it’d be a salacious, tabloid-style, tell-all, sob story. And, I’ve had enough of that brand of audience manipulation. But, the trailer told a different story entirely. It presented the movie as a self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking, ironic comedy. And, that’s something I can generally get excited about. But, in order for me to really enjoy a movie that’s been hyped up this much, it has to deliver more than the trailer promises. And, this movie does, in the form of a truly humanizing, tragic story of a real girl who was abused and snubbed by almost everyone in her life.
This movie is still a comedy, and a hilarious one at that. But, it manages to weave those laughs into the bleak backdrop of a pretty heartbreaking life story. If the core message of this movie is to be believed, Tonya Harding was really used as a pawn by everyone she became close with. Coaches saw this amazingly gifted athlete as a way to be associated with a champion. And, her family used her as a punching bag (both physically and emotionally), as a way to make themselves feel better about their own sorry lives. It seemed like every time she tried to put her trust in someone, they’d betray it. And in the end, the one activity she cared about most in life was taken away from her too.
This movie really made me rethink the tabloid feeding frenzy this story created when it first came to light back in the nineties. I’m, of course, talking about the attack on Nancy Kerrigan that was attributed to Tonya Harding and her associates. The media coverage was treating the story as breaking news. And, they characterized their actions as getting to the bottom of the story. But, now their motives for bombarding us with the story 24/7 seem much more cynical. People do love gossip. And, scandals are profitable. But, folks usually don’t stop to acknowledge the effect their chatter is having on the parties involved until much later. That’s the dark side of our human nature.
This movie affected me emotionally. I felt great sorrow for a girl who could have been helped to prominence, but instead was torn down to nothing. And, I felt a kind of collective guilt for a society that relishes this kind of tawdry spectacle. But, the movie is also tremendously enjoyable too. Despite the tragedy, the movie really does have a lot of laughs. And, the actors all portray their characters wonderfully. The standout performances were from Margot Robbie as Tonya, and Allison Janney as her mother LaVona. Janney really becomes a true villain. And, that’s always fun to see. I recommend this movie. The story and performances are multi-dimensional, and it really has a lot to offer.