Culture of Pop

‘I, Tonya’ is an Energetic Biopic

Margot Robbie Tonya Harding

I, Tonya (30West)

Tonya Harding is forever associated with the horrible attack on Nancy Kerrigan, but there’s more to her story than that. Director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers give us I, Tonya, a fourth wall breaking biopic that aims for the truth. Margot Robbie steps into the ice skates of Tonya Harding, and she’s joined by Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan and Paul Walter Hauser.

Gillespie crafts an energetic movie that follows the rise and fall pattern of a gangster film. It’s engaging, and really lets the audience think about how to define Tonya Harding. It also breaks the fourth wall often, but at a certain point it becomes a little too repetitive. Hauser writes a comedic script and incorporates some intense scenes, but the fourth wall breaking moments feel gimmicky at a certain point.

I, Tonya is an interesting take on Tonya Harding’s life, but it can’t escape the biopic cookie cutter feel. Luckily, the film is entertaining enough that you can deal with it for the most part. The Nancy Kerrigan incident is handled with minimal blame on Tonya Harding, delivering the truth from her perspective.

Margot Robbie, as Tonya Harding, does a terrific job. She looks a little too pretty to play Harding, but goes through her range of emotions well. Her mannerisms and skating are clearly inspired by Harding, and she does a fine job of conveying her audacity. Her interactions with Allison Janey, who plays Harding’s mother, LaVona Golden, make for the best parts of the film. As LaVona, Janney is an ice cold witch hungry for Harding’s innocence. Janney plays her like the mother from hell with no filter and a glare that can turn you into stone.

The rest of the cast give inspired performances. Sebastian Stan, who plays Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, is an interesting mixture of crazy and pathetic. Paul Walter Hauser, playing Harding’s idiot bodyguard and Jeff’s bud, is a scene-stealer as Shawn. Hauser plays Shawn perfectly, as a delusional freeloader that confidently believes in his lies that he was a former espionage expert.

I, Tonya is a greatly entertaining film that is trapped in the biopic format. Breaking the fourth wall is entertaining, but it loses its novelty halfway through and becomes a bit distracting. However, the film is filled with great performances, and presents Harding in a more complete picture, with all the bruises, half-truths, whole lies and talent on the ice.

Grade: B

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