AFI Fest 2017: I, Tonya Review
I, Tonya tells the exciting story behind the rise and fall of skating legend, Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie). The story is created by using interviews and flashback storytelling which creates a fun and exciting back and forth between the audience and the characters. Because of the use of the interview footage, there is a lot of breaking the 4th wall and getting the audience involved. The interviews from Tonya, her mother, LaVona Golden (Allison Janney), her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), and other characters gives a behind the scenes look at the insanity that was the life of Tonya Harding.
What makes I, Tonya so memorable and engaging are the characters and the performances. These people are in a lot of ways, unbelievable. Allison Janney knocks it out of the park as LaVona, the distant, violent, chainsmoking, curmudgeon mother who says impossibly horribly things to and about Tonya. She is easily the most entertaining part of the film with her hilarious commentary and apathetic attitude. A close second is Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser) the friend of Tonya’s ex-husband. His warped sense of reality and his role in it and his blatant stupidity make him a show stopper in the film. Each thing that comes out of his mouth is crazier than the one before, and he will keep you guessing throughout the film. Sebastian Stan is fantastic as Jeff. He plays the duality of the character very well. In some moments, he is a kind and sweet man and the next, a raging lunatic. The unhinged nature of his character is unnerving and gives you a real sense of danger. Margot Robbie plays and fantastic Tonya Harding and disappears into her role. She takes the material and makes it her own, giving life to a vivacious and iconic person. I’ve heard so many people say that she is too attractive to play Tonya Harding, but her performance speaks volumes as she fully embraces and embodies everything that is Tonya Harding.
The confessional documentary style works in this film to enrich the characters and deepen our understanding of the story behind Tonya Harding. The crafting of the storytelling is well-executed using a balance of seeing the actions of her life play out and the interviews about those events. At almost two hours for a runtime, the film is engaging, and you never feel the length of it.
The story of Tonya Harding is one of poverty, triumph, and heartbreak. Craig Gillespie does superb work with the material giving the audience a look at the many aspects of Tonya’s life that have led her to the pivotal point in her career and the time after that. The behind the scenes look at the rise and fall of her career is one that is genuinely fascinating, entertaining, and honestly, a little sad. I, Tonya is a must-see film that will make you laugh, cry and cringe. It is a spectacularly memorable film that will stay with you long after it has finished.