FOUR STARS Ice-staking sensation Tonya Harding is embroiled in scandal when her opponent is attacked.
Starring Margot Robbie, Allison Janney
DRAMA COMEDY #ITONYA
In the early 90’s, the public face of America was hi-jacked by a foul-mouthed, badly-behaved redneck who became embroiled in unsporting behaviour at the Winter Olympics (ie: kneecapping her opponent - literally). Her name was Tonya Harding and she was as far removed from the idyllic princess of ice-skating as you could get, but boy, could she skate.
Years of child abuse had left her with nothing but a passion for, and an extraordinary ability as an ice-skater. She was the first female American to pull off the incredibly difficult triple axel jump - something akin to throwing yourself backwards into the air while spinning, then, completely disoriented, landing on the wrong side of a blade without falling over. The punishing schedule set by her equally foul-mouthed, spiteful mother (played here by a sensational Allison Janney) left Tonya with no education beyond the ice-rink. Once saddled to a no-hoper husband, hers was a story that was never going to end well.
How much I, TONYA reworks the truth is something the director (Australia’s Craig Gillespie) cheerfully acknowledges right from the get-go. This account is a liberalisation of interviews with key players that conflict and confound one another, leaving reality to be found somewhere in the middle. Yet some things aren’t alternative facts: namely Harding’s nemesis was attacked, the likely coordinator was her husband’s delusional friend and Tonya herself knew a version of the truth. Sadly, it undid her career and restored princess to the heart of ice-skating for good.
Another indisputable fact is that outstanding performance is at the heart of this movie. The relationship between Harding and her mother in all its awkward, hateful and frightful behaviour is what makes I, TONYA so much more than a sports movie. They are the essence of of the new order: self-centred, self-absorbed, all-consumed and always without blame. Margot Robbie is perfectly cast against type in the lead role while Janney’s cold-hearted, chain-smoking mother is, as mentioned, sensational. Together they rip the screen apart with two powerhouse performances that tour every embittered emotion of their relationship. They nail the pain and anguish of their vicious lives, and they’re brilliant to watch.
Dipped in humour and sprinkled with Kmart glitter, I, TONYA is a sharp-witted account of Harding’s tabloid life that’s made even funnier, and sadder, because, allegedly, it’s all true. But then, what is truth?