While Craig Gillespie’s biographical comedy-drama became somewhat repetitive, it was nonetheless a provocative and, at times, moving take Tonya Harding’s life, a figure skater implicated in the 1994 attack. I, Tonya does not exempt Harding from her convictions, but offers sympathetic insight into the private and public scrutiny shaping her persona.
I, Tonya follows Harding from the wee age of four, when she has her first ice-skating lesson, to young adulthood. We are witness to her physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother, LaVona Fay Golden (Allison Janney), and her eventual husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan).
Likewise, Gillespie points to Harding’s traditionally ‘white trash’ background – her ‘fur’ coat is made from the hide of local rabbits – as influencing her unpopularity with skating judges and the press.
Gillespie posits that, while Harding may not be entirely innocent, her actions are consequential of a searing desperation to stand out and fit in in a world where everybody is convinced of your insignificance.
The four primaries of the acting ensemble, including Paul Walter Hauser as Harding’s deeply delusional and egotistical bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt, imbue their respective characters with fierce individuality.
Janney embodies acting prowess as the callous LaVona, engendering no sympathy as she unleashes waves of striking insults upon her daughter.
With a 1970s’ rock-based soundtrack supervised by Susan Jacobs, and sharp editing by Oscar-nominated Tatiana S. Riegel, I, Tonya was an exhilarating and heartfelt foray into the life of woman we have always assumed to know.
Readers also enjoyed this review of Sweet Country.