The biopic or movie that chronicles some true event is an interesting venture for filmmakers to go on. On the one hand it’s a great way to recognise or introduce significant people into the world –maybe people we haven’t even heard of- and share their stories. On the other hand, it can be a risky venture depending on how ‘creative’ or truthful the adaptation is. Alongside Gary Oldman who is up for an Oscar for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour this year is Margot Robbie who is up for her portrayal of infamous Olympic figure skater, Tonya Harding.
This black comedy explores the inner workings of a story people have only theorised about and paints a picture of a woman being continuously screwed over. A talented and competitive skater from childhood, Tonya was the first female figure skater to perform the triple axle. With her talent and determination it seemed she could have gone far. Despite suffering from an abusive relationship with her mother (Allison Janney) and her first husband (Sebastian Stan) Tonya’s career is set on the rise until her husband intervenes, forever associating her with one of the most famous scandals in sporting history.
Having had a day to think it over, I’m still not sure whether I liked this movie or not. It’s definitely not a film for everyone. To depict such a scandal as a semi-mockumentary is definitely a ballsy move and while –for the most part- this works in its favour, there are some places where the metafiction and fourth wall breaks become jarring. Perhaps because the content is not as funny as that of Deadpool the same tricks that are used just don’t quite have the same effect –all the time.
But structure aside, this is definitely a thought-provoking film and a creative character study. Most of the world probably doesn’t know the truth about Tonya as a person and not a media figure and the movie does a wonderful job of telling a very trying story about a woman who is getting screwed over by everyone. If it’s not the bashings from her mother and ex-husband, it’s the lack of support from her own country and the ridicule of sporting executives. Indeed the central damnation of Tonya is summed up in one scene where an official informs her that her crude redneck character is not what they’re looking for to represent America –it’s not just about the skating. Despite the vulgarity of her character, which Robbie portrayed really well, Tonya’s character is the one that we all cling to because she’s got something to prove. It’s a tremendous underdog story.
Then we have the performances. The fact that both Margot Robbie and Allison Janney are up for Academy Awards should say it all really –there seems to be a recurring theme with female characters this year. Alongside Frances McDormand for her aggressive portrayal of a grieving mother in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Robbie is up for Best Actress as a woman both strong and weak and forever struggling to prove herself. Janney is up for Best Supporting Actress as a mother so terrifying and unfeeling that she makes us want to crawl back into the womb.
There is a fun, but violent vibe to this movie and I would recommend you check out the trailer before committing to a ticket. But if you’re out on an Oscars catch-up before the ceremony, then I, Tonya is definitely an interesting ingredient thrown into the mix.