I, Tonya is a dramatisation charting the rise of notorious figure skater, Tonya Harding, as she triple axels her way into becoming America’s sweetheart before her world comes crashing down around her and she finds herself America’s most hated woman virtually overnight.
Told using flashbacks, we learn about the circumstances surrounding the attack on Tonya’s skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan, as its global impact and consequences are revealed and explored.
Margot Robbie is utterly convincing as the unconventional Tonya. A trailer-trash Princess and outsider from the start she’s desperate for love and acceptance, but abused physically and emotionally by her husband and mother. Her desire to succeed is so great that she regularly invites trouble into her life because it’s the catalyst that fuels her need for validity from the skating judges that regularly mark her down simply because she doesn’t represent the ‘wholesome American image’.
Allison Janney as Tonya’s abusive mother is as good a performance as you’ll see. In her eyes, she’s sacrificing her daughter’s love to turn her into a champion and it’s heart-breaking to see a woman so convinced she’s doing the right thing by doing the wrong thing. Janney’s foul-mouthed, bullying intimidation is occasionally comical, but makes for uncomfortable viewing as she literally pushes her daughter to the limit. Repeatedly.
Craig Gillespie’s direction invites the viewer into the action as actors regularly break the fourth wall. The major players are all quickly introduced and the docudrama slides onto the ice with skill and flair. There are excellent performances from the supporting cast including Sebastian Stan as Tonya’s husband and Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn, the not quite so dynamic duo behind the plot to sabotage Nancy Kerrigan’s Olympic dream.
I, Tonya is a fascinating, witty and harsh insight into figure skating’s most famous “incident” and it’s worth watching for the outstanding turns from Margot Robbie and Allison Janney.
6.0 from this judge.
Film reviewer for Time and Leisure Magazine, The Movie Waffler and We Are Cult.
Former actor (a regular in The Bill) and voiceover artist with Rhubarb Voices.