Film Review: I, Tonya (2018)

2018 in Cinema:

I, Tonya, 2018

Directed by: Craig Gillespie

Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale

 

In Suicide Squad she was poor.

In Goodbye Christopher Robin she was okay.

In I, Tonya Margot Robbie was simply sublime.

A biographical black comedy about the life of figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie, Goodbye Christopher Robin) and the ups and downs in her life and career, most notably her tremendous skating achievements combined with her abusive mother, LaVona (Allison Janney, American Beauty), and husband, Jeff (Sebastian Stan, Logan Lucky), culminating with the scandal with Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver). Set in a documentary-style appearance, with all the main characters speaking to the camera, which is beautifully shot in the old-style 4×4 screens, with the main film being the major scenes which they speak about.

I knew going in that Margot Robbie was being praised for her performance, but the two films I’d seen her in prior never filled me with much enthusiasm about seeing her in the lead (in both Suicide Squad and Goodbye Christopher Robin she was part of the team but not in the starring role), but any fear I may have had were soon washed away by what was one of the best performances of the year. There’s a lot she goes through in this film, from the highs of love life to the lows of the criminal proceedings, she is fantastic: and a special mention should be given for both the court scene and her first triple-axel scene, both had me surprisingly emotionally invested, the latter being more surprised considering my lack of interest or knowledge of professional figure skating beforehand. She was also accompanied by a fantastic performance from her maniacal mother, portrayed viciously by Allison Janney.

I also loved the visual presentation; from the 4×4 screen sizes for the interviews to the whole camera work throughout the film (with a subtle hand-held camera continuing the look of a documentary, and I loved it despite normally being critical of hand-held camera shots) to the way the performances were shown: adding the small bits of commentary throughout each of Tonya’s skating performances was both clever in terms of telling any audience members, like myself, who were oblivious to figure skating manoeuvres what was happening and for continuing to maintain the documentary style view; as a real documentary would include archival footage which would have commentary. I also loved how in some scenes the character would break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience, mixing the film footage with the interview footage, such as her firing off the gun, allegedly, but denying it during the scene.

There aren’t really any negatives to I, Tonya, which is a nice surprise for one of my reviews! It only doesn’t score a full 5* because while I really enjoyed the film, I wouldn’t put it on a 5* pedestal in terms of my enjoyment (it’s not quite as good as Million Dollar Baby in my opinion, which is my favourite sporting movie) and the writing wasn’t as great as I’ve seen, with characters such as Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) being played too much for laughs. But, while I don’t quite rate them enough to be 5*, they’re still very, very good in an thoroughly entertaining and hilarious film with enough heart and passion created by the performances and the story that I was invested in it throughout.

 

Plot: * * * *     Acting: * * * * *     Writing: * * * *     Presentation: * * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * * ½

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