By: Kevin Jordan
A little bit.
(It’s award consideration season and I’m playing catch-up. As I tear through them, I thought I’d try mini-reviews. Enjoy!)
In 1994, Tonya Harding was the most hated person in America (well, at least until O.J. Simpson went for a drive in his white Bronco). In 2017, anyone who watches I, Tonya is going to have at least the tiniest change of heart unless you are dead inside. I’m not excusing her role in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, but after watching I, Tonya, I was forced to remind myself that she is a human person. I, Tonya is a biography of Tonya Harding (brilliantly portrayed by Margot Robbie) from childhood through her conviction and ban from figure skating. According to the screenwriter (Steven Rogers), everything we see in the movie is based on interviews with Harding and her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan, also brilliant). The construction of the film and the writing have you constantly wondering what the true story is by giving us two different versions of the same story as told by two people whose best interests lie in making themselves look as good as possible. I loved looking for the common threads in the two stories to try to make sense out of what happened, including motivations and psyches. Was Gillooly truly as abusive as Harding claims? Was Gillooly really just trying to scare Kerrigan with death threats, not masterminding (and I use that word very loosely) a physical attack? Was Harding’s mother, LaVona (Allison Janney and brilliant undersells her performance), really the monster we see on the screen? Did we all really look and dress like that in 1994? All great questions with multiple answers to choose from, depending on who you want to believe. But, between the story we are told and Robbie’s performance (especially at the trial), I finished the movie feeling just a little bit sympathetic for Harding. Just a little bit.
Rating: Do not ask for any money back, not even a little bit.