When screenwriter Steven Rogers visited Portland to interview separately, ex-figure skater Tonya Harding, and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly he could never have anticipated two more contrasting versions of their bizarre story. One which eventually lead, to their criminal convictions. This story, was screenwriting gold!
Harding was the first woman to land the triple axel. In fact, there have only ever been six women in history, to have performed the nigh on impossible move.
But I, Tonya is much more than a film about a figure skater’s Olympic aspirations, though there is that too. No, this is a film that explores complex people, complex relationships, and the complex versions of the truth.
In what feels very much like a docudrama, actress Margot Robbie plays Tonya. Robbie’s engagement with the camera is electrifying, because she creates an intimacy. You see a person, not a character.
Everyone has their own version of the truth. And for all the key participants of the story, they get to tell their side of the tale, in an interview scenario. So there’s contributions from Tonya (Margot Robbie), Jeff (Sebastian Stan), her mother LaVona Golden (Allison Janney) and bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser).
Seriously, what happens, is too implausible to makeup.
As human beings we are all flawed, and I, Tonya far from shies away from this, but it does humanise people.
We will witness a mother’s tough love, the detrimental effects of domestic abuse, and we will witness a crime so obscure, you would deem it impossible to concoct.
Tonya Harding can easily be seen as a tragic figure. Nicknamed ‘Trashy Tonya’, regardless of all her talent, she is perceived as coarse and common, by the elitist skating community. She is not at all the figurehead, they want representing their sport, let alone their country, at the sport.
The vision of the screenwriting, editing and directorship deserve to be applauded. I love the faux interviews coupled with the dramatizations, it works 100%. It was a brave decision, but the right one.
And in a film about a figure skater, then expect some nifty moves. Robbie trained rigorously for four months in preparation for the role. Though not to diminish the Oscar nominee’s accomplishments, due to the rare ability, even from the pros, to perform the triple axel, it does dictate the necessity of sharp visual effects, for those scenes; but do not let that put you off.
For a film set in the 80s, you just have to have a complementing soundtrack, and you do! I was certainly tapping my toes.
I, Tonya is also proof that independent films, do have a high quality production value. The accuracy and attention to detail paid to the costumes and hair, are beyond reproach.
Steven Rogers, himself admits to finding this story funny, so expect some dry humour and to laugh, even in the most unexpected places.
The film also comes with the blessing from Harding herself.
So I urge you to jump up, and glide over to your local cinema to see I, Tonya.
Take a look at the Trailer
Distributed by Entertainment One UK.