Directed by Craig Gillespie
Starring – Margot Robbie, Allison Janey, Sebastian Stan
THE PLOT – Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding (Robbie) rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband (Stan) intervenes, paving a road of faith to this moment that has taken her through a lifetime of mental abuse from her Mom (Janney), and physical abuse from her husband. When all is said and done, Tonya will be one of the most memorable names in the sport….for better or worse.
Rated R for pervasive adult language, violence, and some sexual content/nudity
– The decision for a two hour runtime allows the WHOLE story to be told, feeding into the before, during and after of the famous incident that will label her for a lifetime.
– Even Hollywood writers can’t make up the absurd chain of events depicted in this film. Stories like this are movies before they ever see the light of day on the screen.
– Exceptional production qualities like stage lighting and versatility in camera angles and framing, keep this biopic from ever garnering a typical movie-of-the-week artistic vibe
– The transformative performances of Robbie and Janney that take no prisoners with their audience. Janney is the devil incarnate, channeling the worst parenting job since ‘Mommy Dearest’ with a fiery register behind rimmed glasses as big as her ego. Robbie originally felt too beautiful for this role, but she won me over in juggling the emotional roller-coaster that is Harding, who truly always feels alone in what she endures.
– Presents a refreshing angle to Harding that offers an empathetic take without framing her in innocence. This highlights the idea that she is a product of her environment, and never shook the ideals instilled upon her by her mother.
– Harding’s underdog story of sorts for competing against an entire organization and their precious traditions. Revealing looks at historical events like this one certainly provide insight into the pre-determined mindset of the judges who wanted Tonya to fail before her skates ever hit the ice. This makes it easier to stand behind her.
– The precise editing of the skating sequences, conjuring up an intensity in performance that I never paid attention to for the sport.
– Screenwriter Steven Rogers unshaken direction to leave the truth somewhere in the middle, between what actually happened on that fateful day. The interview style leaves just enough room for there to be skepticism provided by the questionable characters telling it.
– The facial C.G animation during the skating sequences is jarring. There are often scenes where a huge head feels like it is plastered on a small body, giving the authenticity a cartoonish vibe that is not needed in the otherwise perfect production value.
– Too often the narration cuts in, limiting the story from playing out in real time. Only half a point was taken off here because the problem fixes itself in the third act.