thaistanley’s review published on Letterboxd:
In a sea of biopics and true stories that plague cinemas during awards season - this year alone brings Darkest Hour, Chappaquiddick, Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, The Disaster Artist, All the Money in the World, Molly's Game, The Post...you get the point - I, Tonya is one that stands out because of how utterly unconventional and outrageous it is. To say the film is magnificent would be an understatement.
Taken at face value, Tonya Harding's life can be seen as tragic and depressing, so it's a surprise when screenwriter Steven Rogers decided to take a dark comedy approach to the script...and it works. The best thing about I, Tonya is how perfectly it balances tone. Many scenes in the film are played for laughs, but there are moments of drama and sadness that pop up unexpectedly. One moment, you're laughing your ass off, but the next, you may find yourself crying, and it's with this skillful, high-wire act that the filmmakers are able to pull it off.
The film wouldn't have worked without the committed performance by Margot Robbie either. If you weren't impressed by her major debut role in The Wolf of Wall Street, you'll be hard-pressed to find Robbie's performance anything short of stunning in this film. It's with I, Tonya that proves she's a fucking star who at least deserves an Oscar nomination, if not an outright win (I haven't seen The Shape of Water yet, so I'll reserve my judgment until then). Likewise, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, and Julianne Nicholson all shine in their respective roles. I don't want to spoil the kinds of characters they play, as they're all playing against type and wonderfully so (especially Sebastian Stan).
In terms of technical merits, the film's cinematography is outstanding. The long takes during the ice skating sequences are particularly splendid. However, there are times where you can tell they're masking Robbie's face onto a professional skater's body, but it's a small complaint in an otherwise exceptional film. The film's also well-paced and is a breeze to sit through, never feeling like it's spinning its wheels.
Overall, I, Tonya is a superb biopic that offers a sympathetic and empathetic portrayal of Tonya Harding. I was very young around the time the media frenzy around Harding was happening or wasn't aware of what occurred in general, but I got the feeling she was a butt of jokes of sorts, which is really unfortunate. However, in a time where we're more "woke" as a society, the film asks us to sympathize and understand a figure who's been ridiculed and abused - by the media and her loved ones - her entire life.