Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale
Run Time: 119 mins
I, Tonya makes for a opportunistic vehicle for some great performances across the board but as a film, it has some major structural problems. The film tells the true story of figure skater, Tonya Harding and the famous scandal she was involved in in the run up to the Olympics, perhaps one of the biggest in sports history. The film virtually screams as an Awards bid for star Margot Robbie, who also produces this film, eager to overturn the quality of her films after the disappointing Suicide Squad and The Legend of Tarzan. Director Craig Gillespie has opted to tell this story through the use of unreliable narrators, various characters in the film reveal their ‘truth’ in this contradictory narrative, regularly breaking the fourth wall.
Unfortunately, Gillespie doesn’t display as much confidence as director Martin Scorsese who used this technique in The Wolf of Wall Street (which Robbie also starred in) and instead, the film feels a little obnoxious in its storytelling. The film is also too theatrical and the visual effects in the skating sequences are unconvincing.
Of the perforances, Allison Janney is the standout here, deserving of her Academy Awards success for her role here as Tonya’s mother, a cold and calculated figure whose upbringing of her daughter is particularly unconventional and scheming. I was also pleasantly surprised by Sebastian Stan, who I’ve found quite wooden as an actor in the past, but his husband for Tonya is a multi-layered character who is particularly unhinged.
The music choices that permeate the film are also problematic. Whilst Peter Nashel’s score works well, it is only used rarely and instead painfully obvious music choices are implored instead, which got to the point of grating.
Overall, I Tonya isn’t quite the success that was to be expected and walks an awkard line between restrained and obnoxious in tone, director Craig Gillespie not really sure what works and what doesn’t. It’s a good thing the performances are as good as they are because if they weren’t, the film would crumble.