I, Tonya

2hrs | Rated R16 | Domestic violence, sexual violence, sex scenes & offensive language

Margot Robbie's thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking take on Tonya Harding

“I was loved for a minute, then I was hated. Then I was just a punchline."
Such was the fate of Tonya Harding, the former Olympic ice US skater who sparked a global scandal when she was implicated in a brutal attack on one of her rivals – Nancy Kerrigan – in 1994.

Timing was everything. This was at the dawn of the 24-hour-news-cycle and tabloid TV and America (and the world) lapped up every seemingly sordid detail.

Based, as Aussie director Craig Gillespie's movie so elegantly puts it, "irony free, totally contradictory interviews", I,Tonya aims to explore the troubled backstories of all the major players (bar Kerrigan), while also allowing them to have their say and then let the audience decide what really happened.
Yes, what could have been a straight-forward documentary or a conventional biopic, is instead a hilarious, confronting and compelling black comedy. Working together with screenwriter Steven Rogers (Step Mom, P.S. I Love You), Gillespie mixes mockumentary style interviews with Coen-Brothers-esque drama and fourth-wall breaking asides. This is a film that wants to draw you into this surreal world of "Trashy" Tanya (a quite brilliant Margot Robbie), her maniacal, foul-mouthed mother LaVona (a scene-stealing Allison Janney) and her hapless husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), and then make you feel complicit in their actions. "This is what you came here for - the incident," Robbie's Harding taunts us, before lamenting that, "I thought being famous would be fun - it was like being abused all over again," as she looks straight down the barrel of the camera.
Gillespie's (Lars and the Real Girl, TV's The United States of Tara) eclectic style plays into that, with his mix of film styles, choice and gleefully ironic musical cuts (Dire Straits' Romeo & Juliet for a violent scene between the couple, Cliff Richard's Devil Woman to help introduce Tonya) and memorable dialogue.
"I remember when he took me to a Richard Marx concert, that's when I knew he was serious," Tonya recollects of Jeff's courting of her.
Throw in some thrilling on-ice action (Harding was the first American woman to land the fabled triple-axel after all) and criticisms of the more officious side of "ice dancing" and the result is a thoroughly entertaining and strangely thought-provoking watch.
Christchurch Press