With the Winter Olympics fast approaching, I, Tonya takes viewers back to the ‘90s to relive the infamous scandal of Olympic figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. However, this time, it’s Tonya (Margot Robbie)’s turn to tell the “truth.”
And her truth is much like her personality — gritty, a bit all over the place and completely immersive.
The mockumentary perfectly balances comedy with harsh reality, which is further reinforced when Harding and her ex husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) break the fourth wall and tell the audience what’s really happened. Harding is repeatedly abused by nearly everyone in her life. The judges see her as nothing more than white trash. She desperately wants someone, anyone, to be proud of her. Yet instead of breaking down, she does what she does best — skates through.
After the , Harding was portrayed as a villain in the media. However, Craig Gillespie’s film portrays her as the underdog. The crowd cannot help but root for her to land a triple axel, finally stand up to her horrible mom LaVona Fay Golden (Allison Janney) and, ultimately, not lose everything in the courtroom when she is put on trial for the assault.
Sufjan Stevens writes in the song that bares Harding’s name, “You confronted your sorrow, like there was no tomorrow, while the rest of the world only laughed.” Since the release of the film, the world is laughing with Harding rather than at her. Somehow, the film takes some of the Harding’s darkest moments and turns them into something that doesn’t mock her, but humorously empowers her.
Robbie’s rendition of the world-renowned figure skater is uncanny. Aside from the spot-on look of frizzy hair and chipped blue nail polish, she completely captures all elements of Harding’s personality as if it was her own. When Harding watches scenes of Robbie crying on the Olympic rink about her skates or cocking a shotgun pointed at Gillooly, she has to feel as if she’s looking in a mirror.
Kerrigan’s character barely makes an appearance throughout the film, which boosts the focus on Harding. Kerrigan had her chance to tell her side of this story, now it’s Tonya’s turn. Even though many viewers probably know the outcome of the real-life events, they will probably still cross their fingers and hope Tonya might finally come out on top.
Almost 24 years after the “incident,” I, Tonya gives Harding some of the redemption she probably needed. The film reminds people about how she once was a “shining American star,” as Stevens sings, and once again puts Harding in the spotlight. Except this time, no one had to have their knee bashed in for it to happen.