I, Tonya deserves an Olympic gold medal for its successful combination of comedy and drama. The film is based on the life of US figure skater Tonya Harding and the attack on her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, prior to the 1994 Olympics. Writer Steven Rogers and director Craig Gillespie took an artistic and entertaining approach in telling Harding’s story. The movie constantly flips back and forth from a chronological telling of Harding’s youth leading up to the attack to (acted) interviews with characters in the present day. This mode of storytelling also allows Tonya to break the fourth wall and correct any information she disagrees with from her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly’s interviews. The interviews and breaking the fourth wall are genius on their own because they capture the difficulty of one person trying to tell their story while close friends, family, the media, and entire nations overpower them and attempt to tell the story from their own contradicting perspectives.
While the movie touches on how the media may have abused and manipulated Harding’s story, there is a greater focus on Harding’s difficult home life, as well as exposing the unfair judgment she received in skating competitions strictly because she was not the idealized image of the American woman. Harding’s home life and marriage is often shocking and devastating, yet the blend of comedy amidst the drama made this movie feel more realistic. The witty lines bring the personalities of various characters to life.
The costumes and casting were also incredible for this film. The skating outfits were based on Harding’s actual outfits from her competitions. Beyond Margot Robbie’s amazing performance as Tonya, Paul Hauser’s performance as Shawn Eckhardt, Tonya’s bodyguard, was very accurate (stay and watch the real interviews in the credits and judge for yourself).
I also recommend this movie for anyone who enjoys great camera work. There is a wonderful long shot that moves from room to room in Jeff’s house and shows him moping in each place. On the whole, this movie is both visually pleasing and masterfully written. Even if you’re someone who remains convinced Harding was more involved with the attack on Kerrigan than she claims, this movie can still entertain you and make you sympathize with the injustices Harding faced.
*This article was originally written for SFU’s student newspaper, The Peak.