Critics' Pick

I, Tonya (R)

Drama 119 min. December 8, 2017
By April Wolfe
Craig Gillespie’s raucous Tonya Harding biopic, I, Tonya, isn’t all #TeamTonya or #TeamTruth — will we ever know the full, real story? Gillespie doesn’t pretend to be definitive. Instead, he spins the tragedy of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan into a searing indictment of America’s obsession with “America” and the ways in which public opinion can be irreparably warped by the media. Those expecting camp or catfights won’t find them in Gillespie’s movie, which instead offers thoughtful and somewhat objective critiques, plus seriously dark humor that will elicit uncomfortable gasps of laughter — and invites you to ponder difficult truths.

To write the script, the filmmakers traveled to Oregon, where Harding still resides, to capture interviews with her and ex-husband/possible co-conspirator Jeff Gillooly, as well as family members and associates. The film unfolds as a kind of collage of these dramatized interviews with re-enactments — starring Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan as Tonya and Jeff — that smash the fourth wall and span Harding’s youth all the way up to and past … “the incident.” Yes, you see Kerrigan scream out — “Why?!” — but Gillespie’s story becomes about a different physical abuse, that of Harding’s, first at the hands of her mother (Allison Janney) and then at Gillooly’s.

Using Harding’s words infuses the story with devastating honesty devoid of sentimentality. Gillespie never slides into condescending melodrama. One of the most beautiful moments comes during Harding’s dramatized interview. Robbie as Tonya has just reminisced about the day she landed her first triple axel. She wipes at her eyes and ashes her cigarette, saying, “Sorry, no one ever asks me about that anymore.” I, Tonya ensures they will.
Craig Gillespie Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Mckenna Grace, Allison Janney, Evan George Vourazeris Steven Rogers Neon

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