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Film Review: 'I, Tonya' Infamously Good

by Todd A. Smith

 

Audiences at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival got early glimpses of films such as “I, Tonya” (Photo courtesy of On the Mark Communications).

 

 

I Stands for Infamy

 

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Several infamous names are synonymous with the early 1990s.


O.J. Simpson.


Lyle Menendez.


Erik Menendez.


Tonya Harding.


Harding, the aforementioned ice skater represented the American nightmare for the prim and prissy figure skating clique.


Figure skaters were definitely not cut from the same cloth as other athletes like boxers.


Boxers usually rose from the gutter to the world of glamour because of their toughness and rough edge like Mike Tyson and George Foreman and were celebrated because of it.


Figure skaters on the other hand were supposed to come from the glitzy suburbs of America, wearing fur coats and displaying the elegance and etiquette of foreign royalty.


Unfortunately, Harding had much more in common with Tyson than Queen Elizabeth and her other worldly talent on the ice rink was never quite appreciated by the skating elite.


The dark comedy/semi-biopic, “I, Tonya,” perfectly captures how you can take someone out of the “trailer park,” but you cannot always take the “trailer park” out of that person.


Harding’s story captured in the quirky flick “I, Tonya” is one of the unlikeliest rags to more rags stories in the history of American sports.


As depicted in “I, Tonya,” Harding played by Margot Robbie (“Suicide Squad”) was always an outsider in the elitist world of figure skating.


Harding did not grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth.


She barely was able to pay for skating lessons, her mother had to work extra hard to pay for her competitions and after marrying her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) at an early age, she found herself the victim of domestic violence.


Unfortunately, Harding believed that Jeff showed his love by beating her, because her mother, LaVona Golden (Allison Janney) would physically abuse her too, and she knew her mother had to love her too.


That hard life made her too rough around the edges for the skating judges and made it almost impossible for her to make an Olympic team, which would lead to big endorsement deals and a ticket out of her poverty stricken life.


When her coach recommended that Harding purchase a fur coat to fit in with the other skaters, her father, Al Harding (Jason Davis) just skinned some rabbits that he had hunted with his daughter and made a homemade rabbit coat.


Despite being infamous for her wardrobe and song choices during competitions, which included songs by Z.Z. Top instead of the classical selections her competitors chose, nothing could top the controversy that erupted when two goons associated with Harding, Jeff and her bodyguard Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser), physically assaulted Harding’s skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver).


The film “I, Tonya” humorously satirizes that iconic incident leading up to the 1994 Winter Olympics, and the bumbling idiots that tried to pull off the caper probably started the news segments around the world called the world’s dumbest criminals.


“I, Tonya” is brilliant because it takes a serious incident in sports history and depicts it without taking it too seriously.


The on-camera narration by the actors made popular in Spike Lee’s debut movie “She’s Gotta Have It” gives the movie much of its personality.


Tonya’s mother even complains during a narration scene that the movie had totally dropped her from the storyline.


Shawn cannot even provide adequate bodyguard service for Harding but brags about being a counterterrorism expert during the Persian Gulf War.


When most criminals would keep their crimes secret, Shawn goes around bragging that his crew pulled off the Kerrigan assault.


“I, Tonya” can only be criticized because many people over 30 years old will already know the outcome of the story.


However, that is why making “I, Tonya” a dark comedy is so genius because the quirkiness makes the film great.


“I, Tonya” is already Robbie’s best work and her talent really shines considering that she is also a producer of the film.


And just like Harding’s name is synonymous with the early 1990s, Robbie’s performance in “I, Tonya” is so remarkable, that this dark comedy will always be synonymous with her career.

 


REGAL RATINGS

FOUR CROWNS=EXCELLENT

THREE CROWNS=GOOD

TWO CROWNS=AVERAGE

ONE CROWN=POOR

This article was published on Friday 17 November, 2017.
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