Movie Review: I, Tonya (2017)

Movie Review: I, Tonya (2017)

Quote from I, Tonya by Tonya Harding: “I mean, come on!  What kind of friggin’ person bashes their friend’s knee?  Who would do that to a friend?”

The Knees are the Most Important Part of the Body

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I think most of the world knows the particulars of the Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding incidents before and during the 1994 Olympics.  Fast forward to 2017 when I, Tonya was released and Nancy Kerrigan competed in Dancing with the Stars.  Now progress to 2018 where Tonya Harding (now Tonya Price) competed on Dancing with the Stars and tied so there really wasn’t a second and third place.  There’s no denying this movie didn’t bring both into the spotlight again, but when all is said and done I thought more about Tonya over the years than Nancy.  You can’t take away she was the first American woman to land a triple axel in competition.  She will always have loyal ice skating fans and maybe one or two boxing fans.  This movie is not just about the attack on Nancy (knee whacking incident).   It’s also about the treatment Tonya from her parents, important figure skating people, and various media.  You get a good picture of what she could have been had she possessed a grounded mental state and stability in her personal relationships.  It wasn’t that she used her past as a crutch to get what she wanted, but it impacted her in ways that clearly filtered into every inch of her life.  The sad part of the story is its truth, and the good part is that both skaters have gotten on with her lives.  They are both parents now, married, and while one is clearly more financially well off than the other, their friendship and rivalry will continue to go down in Olympic history.

The People Behind the Screen

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I, Tonya is what I’d call a passion project the director, Craig Gillespie, wanted to get on the screen.  The direction this movie took had all the skill and nuance needed for this kind of story.  He showed the unfortunate upbringing of Tonya and how it became the unstable platform she stood as she skated her way into young adulthood.  It’s essentially the rise and fall of Tonya Harding.  When you strip away the entertainment value and absurdity of some of the key players, the people remain real along with its aftermath.  This biopic is written by Steven Rogers for release in 2017.  The producers are Tom Ackerley, Len Blavatnik, Zanne Devine, Aviv Giladi, Craig Gillespie, Toby Hill, Vince Holden, Rosanne Korenberg, Scott Allen Morgan, Margot Robbie, Steven Rogers, Michael Sledd, Bryan Unkeless, and Kim H. Winther.  The major cast is Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser, Bobby Cannavale, Bojana Novakovic, and Caitlin Carver.  It has an R for pervasive language, violence, and some sexual content/nudity with a running time of two hours.

Characters and Plot Summary

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The movie opens, present time, with interviews by the key players.  They reminisce on Tonya’s talent, mishaps, and effects.  With most stories that span a lot of time, I, Tonya cuts back and forth between the past and present.  We get a glimpse of a girl who loved her father and never received the motherly care she desired and deserved.  She eventually distanced herself from her mother, but the alternative, Jeff Gillooly, wasn’t much better.  They put their tensions aside enough to stop yelling at each other to marry.  Things were looking up for her as she was the first American woman to land the triple axel during competition.  As quickly as things improved, Tonya friends and their acquaintances sent her into a downward spiral.  Their plan to advance her status was hatched and botched, cracking the ice where everyone fell through the hole.  The key players were arrested, but Tonya was allowed to compete in Albertville based on her assertion she knew nothing about the attack, and apologized in front of the cameras.  Things went from bad to worse during competition, and when she came back she received devastating news.  It was tantamount to death, but she was given no choice to leave the skating arena.  There’s no denying she never tried to be something she wasn’t.  The movie ends with updates on those closest to Tonya during her time as an Olympic skater.  Tonya Harding, now Price, lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son.  She has left her past behind her as we all should.

The Toe Pick was Sharp

This movie took a Switzerland approach regarding the incident.  It wasn’t preachy or sought sympathy for Tonya.  The story unfolded without any curtains to hide the ugly things.  The performances were great.  Of course, Allison Janney as Tonya’s mother was superb.  There’s a reason she won the Oscar.  Seeing Margot Robbie transform into Tonya was impressive too.  I was equally satisfied with Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly, Julianne Nicholson as Diane Rawlinson, Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn Eckhart, Bobby Cannavale as Martin Maddox, and Caitlin Carver as Nancy Kerrigan.  This movie revealed behind the scenes of skating where not everything is fair in the world. Judges can be unforgiving and fans will turn on you.  Media can be powerful and emotions will be strong.  There is one scene of Tonya in the dressing room.  Margot Robbie captured Tonya’s determination and fragility at same time, which is the essence of who Tonya was and is today.

A Few Flowers for Tonya

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I recommend this to anyone who wants to watch a quality movie with a good story and great acting.  I, Tonya is for adults because children don’t have the attention span for it.  You watch this to reminisce about the early to mid-1990s or get more of an idea of what this story was all about for those not old enough or even born yet.  Wherever you put Tonya’s level of guilt or lack thereof, the movie is pure entertainment.   I’m a sucker for biopics because sometimes ‘real life’ is better than fiction.  I also like when movies give a follow-up as to where the people involved are today.  Jeff Gillooly changed his last name to Stone and lives in Clackamas, Oregon with his wife and two children.  Shane Stant lives in California and owns a business called Greenlit13.  Derrick Smith lives in Montana and is pretty removed from the public.  Shawn Eckhart changed his last name to Griffiths and died in Beaverton, Oregon in 2007.  LaVona Golden lives in Washington.  Tonya Harding, now Price, lives in Washington with her husband and son.

Pisaries Creator Rating

I, Tonya gets four fingers and one thumb at 100%

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Trailer by Movieclip Trailers
One Sheet by LuckyChap Entertainment/Clubhouse Pictures/Al Film

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