I, Tonya is a biographical feature film directed by the Australian Craig Gillespie (The Finest Hour (2014)), starring Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Suicide Squad (2016)) as Tonya Harding, the American 90’s champion in figure skating. I, Tonya is Margot Robbie’s first film as both producer and leading actress. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017.
I, Tonya follows the life of the competitive figure skater Tonya Harding from Portland, Oregon and her connection with the attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. But unlike most media, the film mostly focusses on the human being behind it all, not only the ‘incident’. Tonya’s life is centred around the abusive relationships with her mother LaVona Fay Golden (Allison Janney) and her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), which influenced her behaviour during competitions and in other human relationships.
I, Tonya is nominated for 3 Oscars in the categories Best Actress in a Leading Role for Margot Robbie, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Allison Janney and Best Achievement in Film Editing for Tatiana S. Riegel.
As already announced in the introduction, I, Tonya is a biographical film featuring interviews with the characters in the present to create a sort of mockumentary. Remarkable about the narrative style is the recurrent fourth-wall breaking, which means the characters look into the camera during the action scenes as if they directly address the audience and involve them.
Next to Margot Robbie, you might also recognise Sebastian Stan (Captain America (2011), Logan Lucky (2017), Black Panther (2018)) as Tonya’s husband Jeff and Allison Janney (Juno (2007), The Help (2011)). The latter is phenomenally funny in the role of Harding’s mother, although I doubt that anyone would want someone this foulmouthed as a mother. Nonetheless, Janney’s convincing ‘viciousness’ makes her the ideal nominee for the Oscars.
The almost nauseating cinematography is by the Belgian Nicolas Karakatsanis (Bullhead (2011), The Drop (2014), Le Fidèle (2017)). He was the ideal Director of Photography for I, Tonya, because he was the first to agree on chasing the actors in their actions instead of simply following scheduled camera positions. The skating scenes are so dynamic and detailed, as if you are part of the setting yourself.
The editing is by Tatiana S. Riegel. Although Robbie was trained to do most of the choreographies herself, the hardest tricks were covered by a body double, after which Riegel flawlessly pasted Robbie’s face over it as if Robbie did them all herself.
In my opinion, the soundtrack of I, Tonya is another remarkable element. Some of the songs were actually used in Harding’s real routines, like ZZ Top’s Sleeping Bag. Most tracks are from the 70’s and 80’s and are classic rock songs. They are powerful, such as Heart’s Barracuda. This symbolises the narrative perfectly. I especially liked the cover of The Passenger by Siouxsie & The Banshees at the end. But of course, taste in music is something personal after all.
To conclude, you should watch I, Tonya for plenty of reasons. The acting performances, the rocking soundtrack and the cinematography are only a couple of them. But also, just check the film so you know why Allison Janney will win that Oscar ;).