Craig Gillespie directs Margot Robbie, Allison Janney and Sebastian Stan in this retelling of the 90s female figure skating scandal where the top US competitor had her knee broken by attackers associated with her teammate.
Two blistering female performances carry I, Tonya. Robbie brings heart to the bullish and corrupt, eventually demonised, figure skater Tonya Harding. While Janney as the harsh, unloving but devoted mother electrifies whenever she is on screen. In fact, the period where she drops off our radar drags… you can’t help but agree with her talking head when she interjects that she is noticeably absent. For the second half, Gillespie seems happy focusing on the doofs and unwise guys who farcically destroy one skater’s chances and end up crucifying the other. It is all told with a knowingly Goodfellas-esque verve – narration, breakneck pace, thumping timestamp soundtrack. And the modern day interview segments playfully reveal the ultimate truth is still obscured but not unguessable. Only the virtuoso skating sequences – absolutely stunt packed, whiplash inducing belters, you can tell CGI must have been used but struggle to see the joins – feel truly original though. This is mainly homage to established classics, made camp by the glittery, frilly nature of the subject matter’s sport. It is a scabrously funny film, yet deals unflinchingly with domestic abuse and tries to make a martyr of a figure, who while she was often dealt a shitty hand, was almost definitely complicit in an assault on one of her peers. That leaves a slightly bad taste in my mouth. Similar to the moral blinkers Molly’s Game suffered from. At least this spirited, foul mouthed defence has a blast while trying to transmogrify a real life crim into a tarnished saint.