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'I, Tonya' (2017)

A Review

I, Tonya is a 2017 Ice-Skating dramedy biopic directed by Craig Gillespie (of Lars and the Real Girl and Fright Night 2011 fame). The film stars Margot Robbie as the titular Tonya Harding, and Sebastian Stan as her bumbling husband Jeff Gillooly. I, Tonya focuses on the early life of Mrs. Harding, leading up to and including the "incident" involving Nancy Kerrigan. With a budget of 11 million USD, I, Tonya has earned back its budget and some change so far.

I went in seeing only one trailer for the movie which always is a pleasant surprise. Although the trailer did show some memorable highlights, I thought it did decent job of getting me excited for the movie. I'm familiar with the names of some of the characters, but I was just a kid when this all happened in real life so I'm not as knowledgeable in the life of Mrs. Harding. I heard some reviews calling this "Good Fellas on Ice", and while it definitely has drawn some influence from the Scorsese film, does it meet the hype?

On a Pale Imitation:

Personally, I don't think it manages to be as intense or entertaining as Good Fellas. I'm a huge Martin Scorsese fan and, like I said before, you can clearly see how he influenced the film. But sometimes it feels like the director saw Good Fellas and wanted to make something like that. While it certainly has heart and character, Gillespie just doesn't have the experience required to make something like this as compelling. He's not a bad director by any means. It just doesn't leave the impact I think he was hoping for.

The Leading Lady:

Margot Robbie is probably the second best part of this movie. She gives a great performance as Tonya Harding, to the point where I didn't see Ms. Robbie. I saw Tonya Harding skating on a film. She disappears into this role and I loved it. I wanted to see her do well, to win, to leave her husband and tell off her mom. Unfortunately, this is based on real life, so we know better than to expect an overly happy ending.

The Mother of All Evil:

If Margot Robbie is the second best part of the film, Allison Janney as Tonya's mother is the definitive best. Cold, distant and unloving is putting it nicely. I don't want to spoil too much, but I wish we got to see more of the relationship between Tonya and her mother. While no means a small part, there's definitely less than I wanted. There should be a TRIGGER WARNING for anyone who has a bad relationship with a parent. My fiancee ended up hating the film because it hit too close to home.

The Winter Abuser:

Sebastian Stan (a.k.a. Bucky) plays Tonya's soft-spoken and increasingly violent on-again-off-again husband. I'll admit, I had no idea it was Bucky until I left the theater. He's another actor that just disappears into the role he was given. Honestly though, his story was the least compelling to me. His friend is funny but I felt like the film gave them WAY too much screen time. I know it moves the story forward, but I wanted to see more Tonya.

Overstuffed:

If you look up the soundtrack to the film you'll probably see lots and lots of great songs. When I was in the theater, my Fiancee told me she loved the music. But when we were both discussing the film afterwards, we both agreed that there was just too much. One of the problems that plagued Suicide Squad was great music randomly inserted. I, Tonya will give you the same feeling of "Oh I love that song... But what's it doing here? Less than four minutes after that last song I loved?" A little trimming can make less seem like more.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Some of the CGI looks terrible.
  • Did anyone else get reminded of True Detective season 1?
  • 90s Nostalgia is there but it's downplayed.

Overall Score:

B+

I, Tonya is a well acted movie with some directorial issues. It's worth a watch if you won't get triggered.

Follow Ryan on twitter @thecriticalmarine.

Check out Ryan's review blog at thecriticalmarine.blogspot.com