I, Tonya (2017)

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My knowledge of Tonya Harding was non-existent before I watched this autobiography-type movie of her life, career and possible destruction of both. I say possible because at the end of the day, the doubt remains. Did she? Or did she not? And I feel like Margot Robbie managed to amplify the mystery by playing an innocent, yet dangerous young woman, who just wanted to skate.

Part of me liked I, Tonya a lot, and all that love is especially aimed towards the performances of the entire cast. There’s no weak link here, everyone does exactly what they are expected to do, and some even manage to steal the spotlight away from the always stunning Margot Robbie. Before I get to her performance, there are three others I want to point out.

Allison Janney is a must mention, not just because she has won every award for it but because she portrayed LaVona Golden, Tonya’s harsh and unloving mother brilliantly. She manages to be the villain of the story, but there are still moments when she looks like the mother nature intended her to be. She cares, deep down, she really does care, but it’s hard for her to show that motherly affection and instead, she offers Tonya only coldness. Then there is the loving/hating boyfriend, Jeff Gillooly, portrayed by Sebastian Stan, who definitely needs more attention for his performance. He has a similar role to Janney, he is simply more loving but does have his moments of anger, and it’s scary how quickly Stan manages to switch between those two.

Third, and probably the biggest spotlight stealers of the film is a guy I have seen and remember, from a single episode of a show I watched a few years ago – Paul Walter Hauser. He had a small role in The Night Shift, as a man who died because of a stupid work-accident, and I cried as if I’d known his characters for three seasons. You don’t see those kinds of character actors often, but Hauser is one hell of a power house, and his Shawn in I, Tonya, is all the proof you need. He is so natural on screen, so effortless, it’s actually a little disappointing there’s not more of him in I, Tonya.

But that’s alright, it’s not Hauser’s show anyway, it’s all about Margot Robbie and her transformation into Tonya Harding. I’ve always liked Robbie, even considering the fact that I hated Suicide Squad, and I’m glad she got herself this movie. She produced it herself, she played the main character, and she made it all work. The story itself is interesting, and like I said, there is still the whole question of did she, or did she not, but there’s also a little bit of muddled clarity. Some of it is probably true, maybe not all of it, but definitely some of it, and it’s hard not to root for Harding in the end.

Probably the most heart breaking scene comes when Harding is banned from skating, forever. Her reaction, her sadness, it almost makes you wish it all didn’t have to come down to that. At the end of the day, it’s still about money and beauty, and Tonya apparently had none of those, she just had her skill, and determination. She made some bad choices along the way, fuelled by the fact that she never had a loving relationship with her mother, and that the skating world didn’t deem her fit as the best skater. Even though, she clearly could have been the best of the best. Which is why all of this is especially heart breaking and makes you wonder how toxic the world of ice skating really is.

The movie, which showcases the skating brilliantly, and very true to reality, does feel a little bit off the mark. And it’s only because I found it a little hard to believe Tonya wasn’t loved by the skating community, and the judges. Reason. Margot Robbie is stunning, and it’s not really her fault that she even manages to look stunning in those awful 90’s hair styles, she just oozes beauty left and right. Though the movie does try to balance that with verbal insults, and an attitude problem (probably all true), but when it comes to skating and looking the part, it’s hard to look past the fact that Robbie simply shines through all that. Is it something that stopped me from enjoying the film? Definitely not! I, Tonya is still a wonderful film, through and through, and like I said, all the actors give their best and in a way, that’s all there is to it. It’s just a shame that all her best was never going to be enough for Tonya Harding.

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    actualandrew
    January 31, 2018 at 8:23 PM

    I don’t know why but when I first read the synopsis about the film it put me off. But the more I read about it the more I want to see it. You hit the nail on the head with the “always-stunning Margot Robbie”. She’s great. And I had no idea she produced it. I think I’m sold on this one. Can’t wait to see it for myself

    • Reply
      mettelray
      February 4, 2018 at 2:21 PM

      I’m always curious about sports movies, especially when they are based on real life, so I knew I was going to watch it. I’m glad it has gotten so much love, and yes, Robbie shines!

  • Reply
    Courtney Young
    January 31, 2018 at 10:53 PM

    I actually liked this movie 100x more than I anticipated. Robbie and Janney were tremendous, and both deserve the Oscar in my opinion.

    • Reply
      mettelray
      February 4, 2018 at 2:22 PM

      Both are really good indeed! It’s a difficult year though, I feel like a lot of actresses deserve it, but it’s sad that only one could win.

  • Reply
    ninvoid99
    January 31, 2018 at 11:34 PM

    I’m glad someone else mentioned Paul Walter Hauser as he was just a joy to watch. I hope the guy gets more roles. I enjoyed the hell out of this film as I can’t ZZ Top out of my head.

    • Reply
      mettelray
      February 4, 2018 at 2:23 PM

      Right!? And even if you don’t watch The Night Shift, watch his episode. He crushes it, and steals the entire episode!

  • Reply
    The Vern
    February 1, 2018 at 6:07 AM

    I too felt really bad for Tonya Harding. Having to give up he dream of skating was heart breaking for sure. I had no idea who played Shawn but thanks for sharing that it was Paul Walter Hauser and he was good

    • Reply
      mettelray
      February 4, 2018 at 2:24 PM

      You’re welcome. Keep an eye out for him, I have a feeling he will start getting more roles and he is one hell of a supportive actor!

  • Reply
    Big Screen Small Words
    February 1, 2018 at 12:00 PM

    Margot Robbie is amazing here, but I wanted a bit more from her performance. I can’t imagine another actress doing the role though. This biopic is interesting from start to finish. It gave Tonya a victim/fighter edit but it didn’t let you forget that she probably cast herself in a good light.

    • Reply
      mettelray
      February 4, 2018 at 2:26 PM

      I feel like her beauty shined through too much. Tonya was being shunned by the ice skating community because she wasn’t the beauty standard they wanted to have representing them, even though Tonya was very skilled, but Robbie looked so stunning, and I couldn’t imagine someone just walking up to her and doing a little makeover on her and that’s that.

      The whole movie raises a big question, did she? Because it sort of puts these ideas in our head, but then again, it’s definitely a little manipulative. Which I like.

  • Reply
    Brittani
    February 1, 2018 at 2:54 PM

    Paul Walter Hauser was excellent his character was so stupid lol. It’s a shame he and Stan aren’t getting more mentions. Great review!

    • Reply
      mettelray
      February 4, 2018 at 2:26 PM

      They were definitely overshadowed by the leading ladies, but that being said, I think they almost stole the whole movie on their own. Thanks!

  • Reply
    sati
    February 1, 2018 at 4:40 PM

    Paul Walter Hauser almost stole the show here, he was so hilarious! And Margot should be winning awards over Frances, her performance was absolutely outstanding

    • Reply
      mettelray
      February 4, 2018 at 2:28 PM

      Hauser’s Night Shift episode is worth a watch, trust me. I’ve never really checked up who plays a victim in these medical shows but his was the one I needed to know who played him. Such a great performance!
      I liked both Robbie and Frances, but for completely different reasons.

  • Reply
    CB: Rewind << January & Monthly Awards – METTEL RAY
    February 5, 2018 at 5:03 PM

    […] So during January I sat down and wrote five movie reviews, which I’m considering a very great number for reviews! I didn’t review my favourite movie of last year yet, but that is up in February – I’m still trying to wrap my head around it and the fact how it has been received by others. The Shape of Water  /  Wind River  /  Lady Bird  /  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  /  I, Tonya. […]

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