I, Tonya

I, Tonya ★★★★★

This is how you do a biopic! I, Tonya is a phenomenally entertaining film about Tonya Harding, specifically the 1994 Attack on Nancy Kerrigan that she was later found to have been involved with. Messing with ideas of truth and the inescapable influence of the past, it is a rare, thought-provoking treat.

Played by Margot Robbie, who completely loses herself in the role (and might be my personal pick for favorite performance of the year), the film first focuses on Harding’s tough upbringing. Coming from a less-than-ideal poor American family, she initially is met with some resistance as a figure skater. But through it all, her mother (ruthlessly and wonderfully played by Allison Janney) pushes her to rise above it. Rounding out the cast is Sebastian Stan as Harding’s abusive on again off again boyfriend, and Paul Walter Hauser as the foolish Shawn Eckhardt, the one who seems primarily responsible for the Kerrigan attack, and is quoted as “a boob amongst a cast of boobs.” 

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of I, Tonya, besides the fantastic cast, is that it is setup as a mockumentary, with multiple fourth wall breaks throughout. Comparisons to Scorsese’s style are not misplaced, but the film doesn’t so much question the validity of the American dream as Scorsese does; rather, it questions the validity of truth itself. Did Tonya really have a part in the Kerrigan attack, or was she always going to be cast out due to her less than “pure” nature? Can one five second act really change your life? Do the choices we make, whether directly or not, have inevitable consequences? Or is life just a series of misfortunes, where the cards are just stacked against certain people regardless of their passion and desire to be more? 

For a film that could have easily just been another fleeting biopic, I, Tonya certainly proves itself to be much more. It dives through to existential questions, and it does it in such an entertaining way that it’s hard not to love it all the more.

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