by Toby Woollaston
It seems the perfect time for Tonya Harding’s story to finally surface onto the big screen. In the current age of relativism, this personal truth of Harding’s life is to be taken at face value. Right from the opening credits I, Tonya makes clear its intentions as an “irony free, wildly contradictory, totally true” account of Tonya’s story. In fact, the truth may never be known, not by us at least. But in Tonya’s own words “there’s no such thing as truth. I mean it’s bullsh*t. Everyone has their own truth and life just does whatever the f*ck it wants.” … which perfectly sums up this film’s sassy tone.
Most will already know the events surrounding the infamous scandal of Olympic ice-skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. But less is known about the events leading up to the incident. Physically abused from a young age by her mother and later in life by her husband, Tonya’s rough start moulded her into a belligerent, naive, self-confessed redneck that didn’t give an inch. Her side of the story is presented through mockumentary-style interviews with the key players, including Tonya (Margot Robbie), her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) and Harding’s mother LaVona Golden (Allison Janney)—all who clarify events leading up to the “planned” kneecapping of rival skater Nancy Kerrigan. The incident made headlines around the world and defined the careers of the two Olympic ice-skaters.
Director Craig Gillespie’s (Lars and the Real Girl) visually charged approach is perfectly partnered with Steven Rogers’ punch-and-duck screenplay, resulting in a film that ebbs and flows effortlessly throughout. And although at times it relies too heavily on its emotive soundtrack, it packs enough kinetic wallop and alluring fourth-wall breaking (which at times includes us, the media frenzied public, complicit in her abuse), to keep you engaged.
It’s difficult to know how the real events behind closed doors actually played out, but one thing’s for sure; I, Tonya presents Harding’s “truth” as a feisty tale of dark humour and tragedy that proves to be an absorbing romp from start to finish.
Read the full review for the NZ Herald here.