la rogue’s review published on Letterboxd:
Right after I saw this in theaters I remember thinking to myself "I'm gonna have to rewatch this movie cause I'm not exactly sure how I felt about it" and here I am months later - I got around to rewatching it. I also now have my full fledged opinion on this film. I, Tonya is an unapologetic and mesmerizing masterpiece.
Making a film about Tonya Harding in itself is a premise that doesn't sound good on paper. Tonya Harding is not America's sweetheart. In many regards she was the villain of her own story. You would think most people would much rather hear Nancy Kerrigan's story. Kerrigan being the ice skating sweetheart subject to an unfortunate wrongdoing, and Harding being America's broken ugly mirror. Yet this film basically lifts it's middle finger up straight in the air and says "Fuck it".
I, Tonya makes a villain the epicenter of a film that is absolutely remarkable in nearly every way. Whether you love or hate Tonya Harding doesn't matter, this is a film solely about filmmaking. I, Tonya is completely self aware and realizes this very fact. This film is very cinematic. It's almost as if the film is able to say "look at me I'm a movie and I know I'm a movie so for the next 2 hours I'm going to break every conventional thing you know about movies." The self awareness of I, Tonya makes for quite the experience. Presented in an almost satirical documentary style while also genre hopping between pitch black comedy and evocative drama and even genre bending the romance genre; I, Tonya is puzzling and genuinely disorienting. This is a feat that shouldn't work yet it does, and it works in the most masterful fashion. From the shaky camera style, to the switching aspect ratio, and the cold bluish hue filtering the film - I, Tonya is able to bridge its innovative style with immense levels of mastery.
Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, and Margot Robbie are all acting for their lives. Janney is seriously cold and wretched but so powerful. Sebastian Stan is simply sinister. Stan embodies this estranged abusive husband to a notch, it's effective and unsettling to say the least. Margot Robbie gives it her all giving what is undoubtedly a career defining performance, and the performance of a lifetime. I think Robbie should've pulled more Oscar momentum because she really pulls out all the stops in what is a picture perfect character performance. The entire cast is amazing but it is Robbie who comes out triumphant.
I, Tonya is a film orchestrated so well and mended together in the most pristine fashion. I honestly can see the criticism against this film. Yes the pacing is a little off so it can make this film feel "tedious", yes the shift between tonalities is absolutely puzzling, yes the film turns a real life situation of abuse into an art piece and seems to sympathize with Harding - this film does a lot and is in no way flawless. But in my opinion none of this stops it from being any less masterful. The script is razor sharp, the performances are magnificent, the visual components are stunning (the film deserved best editing these shots are edited to the utmost perfection), the music is sublime, and the film is bold in its execution. I, Tonya is harsh and ugly. But the film realizes this and it's completely intentional. It's a movie that simply won't work for a lot of people, but for me it works in nearly every way. Bordering on being a Shakespearean tragedy - I, Tonya doesn't stick an ordinary landing, it perfectly hits a triple axle.