Having made her name in The Wolf of Wall Street as well as starring in disasters such as Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie’s career has been less than stellar. However, it appears that the role of Tonya Harding is going to set the record straight.
I, Tonya is biopic of infamous USA figure skater, Tonya Harding, showing her abusive upbringing, abusive marriage life and abusive rise amongst the figure skating world. The film also acts as a documentary with hard cuts back to main characters in an interview setting, giving their thoughts on what the audience had just witnessed. Despite the fact at the very start, we are informed that the story is based off “irony-free, wildly contradictory and totally true” interviews it allows for the director, Craig Gillespie, to weave comedy into a gripping drama.
The main star is of course, Margot Robbie, who provides her greatest performance to date. Through flawless acting she captivates the weight that is on her shoulders and the toll that each conflict with her husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), and her mother, LaVona Golden (Allison Janney), leaves on her. Whilst every performance warrants praise, Margot Robbie deserves the most, highlighted by making a silent minute of “composure and control” before a dance feel like an Oscar reel.
Despite having Tonya as our eyes into this time, the writer and director do well to consistently provide moral grey areas for the audience to decide upon. This allows for viewers to freely choose whether they support or condemn her actions or beliefs whilst making sure we never completely love or hate her. But not to worry as a lot of the distain can be directed to Tonya’s bodyguard, Shawn, who managed to bring pure anger, on my behalf, at his sheer idiocy. Worst part being that, his role is one of the more reliably told and confirmed areas of this absurd story.
With a mix of fixed and mobile camera work, I, Tonya manages to effectively drag the audience into its story, making the skating scenes tense and a joy to behold. With the addition of fourth wall breaks, the film gives off the same style as ‘Parks and Recreation’, allowing the audience to feel as a constant and noticed presence. Unfortunately, the ending does drag a bit too long and due to the unreliable nature of the sources, it can give the film less substance and impact that some may want. However, these are very small issues in what is otherwise, a fantastic biopic.
I, Tonya may not claim any awards this year, but unlike other films, I do not think that was the point. It has succeeded where it needed to, by shedding light on a heavily debated story, as well as strengthening the career of its main star. If the academy disagrees, then, as Tonya says, “f*** em”.