I, Tonya has been labelled by many as the Goodfellas of figure skating. I can see why people would say that which such surety, to me this film is closer to another Scorsese classic The Wolf of Wall Street. To those thinking I’m barmy, I challenge you to watch I, Tonya without thinking about the craziness of the story. I, Tonya is one big chain of events that centre around a character who was just unlucky to be around the people who wanted to shape her and through their faults ruin her, and from start to end, I was gripped by a perspective of a controversial event that I was craving to see.
I suppose I was taken off guard by I, Tonya, primarily because I had seen the trailer so many times, I had built an expectation about how I thought the film would have gone down. Looking back, the perspective was so simple and boring so the surprise I got from Craig Gillespie’s presentation of the narrative. It goes for the kind of story within a story (within another story at times) approach, starting off by telling the audience the story is based on the contradictory interviews of the characters. because of this we get to see scenes told from the character’s perspective that are either true or false, the film even acknowledges this by characters regularly breaking the fourth wall to tell us so. This style isn’t something new but the uses it to amp up the pacing of the film without destroying it, this is prodigious for a director who is still very much new, he may have just found his big hit.
I was taken completely off guard by just how funny the film was. I was expected to watch and react with a few laughs, I never expected to be bellyaching by the films characters. most of the films laughs is by the absurdity of the story and the characters of LaVona (Allison Janney) and Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser), but I believe there is more to it than meets the eye. From viewing I, Tonya you can experience the feeling of Schadenfreude or getting pleasure from another person’s misfortune. Tonya had a hard upbringing being abused by her mother and lover Jeff (Sebastian Stan) and being told she can’t do this and she must be this, the way the film presents all these misfortunes and the tone of which they are presented gives us a satisfaction as though we are thankful for not being in her situation without feeling guilt until the seriousness kicks in.
The film boasts a magnificent cast with Margot Robbie as the star in the centre of it all. This is an actress who keeps on getting better and better with every performance, and her role as Tonya Harding proves her ability to play a wide range of roles is something special. Although, I was more taken away by the harsh performance of Allison Janney. As a character who believes in the motivation of abuse and cruel taunts, that’s all the evidence needed to make the audience hate her, yet she is one of the funniest characters in the film, which could be down to her desperate yet brutal attempts to model Tonya into a success.
It is during the figure skating scenes where you can witness the craftsmanship that went into this film. the camera is always moving which matches the quickness of figure skating, if the camera has been stationery it would have been a huge problem because we don’t get to feel the Tonya’s efforts to be the best. the camera almost swoops around Tonya showing also the beauty of her moves, in saying that I also applaud the overexposed lighting, putting Tonya in a kind of spotlight for the people watching her.
The styling of I, Tonya is pleasant there is no denying that, it makes for small percentage of enjoyment for the film. but this is where the problems become clear. Borrowing a style from a similar film isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it fits the story being told, however you run the risk of losing identity and I, Tonya has run into this predicament. I have seen this quick editing, quick storytelling formula before but a lot of those films have managed to have alter the formula slightly. I, Tonya doesn’t seem to tinker as much so the uniqueness of the style isn’t fully brought out as much as I’d have wanted it to do.
I was glad that the film was something different from what I had built up. Although the film lacks a concrete identity, the actors giving 110%, the laugh out loud comedy and the efforts put in to present this film as beautifully as it can be come together to make I, Tonya one of this year’s roller-coaster stories. I Tonya is both comical and all kinds of messed up that skates to gold medal position and with more certain awards along the way.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen I, Tonya? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Red Sparrow