I, Tonya

I, Tonya ★★★★

"Suck my dick!" may now be one of the most sorrowful and fascinating lines uttered in the cinema of 2017. 

Many comments have already been shared in regards to comparing Craig Gillespie's "I, Tonya" to the Martin Scorsese classic "Goodfellas". Stylistically speaking, Gillespie utilizes quite a few cinematographic motifs in his feature that look and feel as though they've been peeled straight from the Scorsese playbook. Soundtrack integration is also unquestionably similar, but we'll touch upon that later. And yes, the fourth wall breaks, in-scene and via "interview", are another connective bread trail between these two creatives that could be pursued. 

Now, beyond the method and the appearance, it's important to acknowledge that the thematic similarities shared between "I, Tonya" and "Goodfellas" may honestly be the most resonant aspects that bind the two films. Both pictures focus much of their explorative powers on examining the nature of American savagery. Whether it be from a survivalist perspective, a class-based lens, or an avenue of shedding light on traumatizing physical and psychological abuse, their efforts inspecting brutality in the home and around the nation reveal a sophisticated look at the age old tale of how individuals ultimately become products of their world. Like "Goodfellas" before it, "I, Tonya" certainly drives this straight to the heart.

Aiding the impact of the savagery studied here is the crushing weight of tragedy. Though a few aspects of Tonya Harding's character could still be up in the air for judgment, one certainly cannot deny the challenges that she has encountered. On the ice and in the living room, everything imaginable was pitted against her. Through soul-crushing odds, Harding persevered and accomplished the stuff of legend. Endurance and determination were her weapons at every moment and they seemed like successful ones, too. Yet, as history has shown, the world still managed to get the best of her. Through a series of events that range from ludicrous to heartbreaking, Tonya Harding lost the war. Unfortunately, the world that bested her is still the one that robs millions today. Not a whole lot seems different. How cruel.

Alright, this is getting kinda intense. Let's slightly shift gears and indulge in a little profanity. Completely upfront, "I, Tonya" is pretty fucking exceptional. Like, it's really fucking great. The film functions and flows so effortlessly through time and cinematic aesthetic that you seriously just sit there in awe for nearly every single minute of it. It's rhythm and soul, while slightly recognizable, are fantastically captivating and Gillespie gratefully never trades substance in favor of style. Each are weighted equally in relation to one another throughout. This helps to allow Steven Rogers' screenplay to really shine and become one of the film's strongest points. Partially unexpected, the narrative's content and execution allow for an immense amount of analysis to take place during and most definitely after your viewing. Rogers takes time to firmly delve into the influences and factors that molded Harding's story into what it eventually snowballed into.

Backing Gillespie and Rogers is a team of performers in perfect form. Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, and Allison Janney deliver performances that are career defining. Each inhabit their respective figures to the point of invisibility. You try your damnedest to identify the actors within, yet you end up failing consistently from scene to scene. Each are so layered and complete. It's slightly hard to say what Robbie's chances are at scoring a lead actress nomination at the coming Oscars, but there's a scene in this film where she looks into a mirror before an event and it's easily some of the most impressive acting that I've seen all year. Robbie brings that degree of power to the whole film and she should be recognized. Janney is probably be a safe bet when it comes to spotting a supporting actress nominee with her work as Harding's mom from Hell. Sensational transformations.

Now, we finally touch back upon soundtrack integration. "I, Tonya" is littered with era-appropriate songs that are all excellent. That said and with a slight sigh, their frequency and blatancy becomes is just a little too much once everything is said and done. Not to keep using it as a comparative crutch, but the soundtrack interplay experienced in "Goodfellas" just feels like a more balanced example of tune and narrative coinciding in seamless relation. Still, the soundtrack in "I, Tonya" is a great one that unfortunately shows its hand more than is necessary.

What a surprise of pure suffering and violence. You could write several hundred more words discussing other elements from this picture. More about the ferocious directing, the high-caliber editing that wasn't even touched upon here, and the themes are all deserving of more conversation. Though the use of music does prove to be a slight hinderance, the overall quality of film that's been delivered with "I, Tonya" is quite superb. Every turn delivers a new thread to grasp and become completely enveloped in. For a film that was on fringes of my mind based on the trailers and the marketing material, I'm sure glad that I was able to see "I, Tonya". Highly recommend if you're interested in a shock to the senses that has the lasting power thanks to actual talent and weighty thoughts.

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