Let’s start this review off with a bang: “I, Tonya” was a really fun movie and you should totally see it!
I am a big fan of true crime stories, biopics, and many other adaptations based on real life. As the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. One of the problems with this genre, however, is it often embellishes and dramatizes the actual events. In addition, the stories are usually limited from the perspective of one or few characters.
I wasn’t old enough to follow the story as it was unravelling in the early 90s, which removes any hopes of comparison for me, but seeing the movie encouraged me to look into the real story. Reality aside, it was damned fun watching the re-enactment. Now for a few pros and cons:
I really loved the documentary/mockumentary styled storytelling. It reminded me of “The Big Short” the way it broke the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience. It was the exposition you needed without the frustration of waiting for the movie to happen (aka it wasn’t boring).
Stylistically, it also looked great. The clothes, color, hair and make-up matched the time period and the pictures and videos I found on the internet.
On top of that, Margot Robbie and Allison Janney were absolutely stunning in their roles – but you knew that already. The awards circuit has hyped the ladies up several times over. But did you know that Sebastian Stan was also riveting as Jeff Gillooly? Probably not. He had all the charm and manipulation of the boy next door…if that boy was also Ted Bundy. (Yikes!) Funnier still was the audience-favorite Shawn Eckhardt, played by Paul Walter Hauser – a truly believable idiot (Eckhardt, not Hauser).
I’m not sure how much the mother-daughter relationship played out on TV or in media reports in real life, my initial search of Tonya Harding didn’t pull any results on this, but it worked really well on-screen, giving the movie just enough dramatic tension to make certain moments cringe-worthy – looking at you wedding scene. I have no doubt the physical and emotional abuse took a toll on the relationship, providing a just cause for permanent estrangement. It was a good demonstration by the actors.
There was another poignant part in the movie when Tonya commented to the camera a woman’s worth that really resonated with me. It was after one of the many beatings from her husband. An abusive husband + a battered wife + a cop = not what you expect.
My friend, Brittany, who recalled the actual events, noticed before I did that Margot’s accent in the movie was a closer match to her Harley Quinn character from Suicide Squad than the actual Tonya. Upon watching interview clips on YouTube, I have to agree. Was this on oversight on the movie’s behalf?
NO SPOILERS (but how much can I spoil 24 years after the fact?) – the ending didn’t really show the events leading to Tonya’s trial and sentencing. It was a bit of a jump scene for me, from the ice to the courtroom. I found myself trying to piece the story together myself. Did Tonya have involvement in the Nancy Kerrigan assault or not? Even in real life I think the results are a little unclear.
This belongs neither in the pros nor cons section, so it’s being added here because it made me chuckle. There is a scene where Jeff and Shawn meet in a strip club…pay special attention to the stripper dancing in the background, lol. (No body shaming!)