For many years, the Olympics were topics around the water cooler, but it seems as if the last time people talked about the Winter Olympics was 24 years ago. People forget that Oksana Baiul took the Gold Medal for Figure Skating, because Silver Medalist Nancy Kerrigan was half of the big story leading up to the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Tonya Harding was considered the villain of the story which has now become a movie called I,Tonya.
We are introduced to LaVona Fay (Allison Janney), a monstrous mother who sees potential as a skater for her 3-year-old daughter Tonya. Considered to be “from the wrong side of the tracks” in the Pacific Northwest, young Tonya is taught to shoot rabbits by her father figure. Given LaVona Fay’s abusive behavior, the father figure leaves home. Minus a second income, LaVona uses physical and psychological abuse upon Tonya.
Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) enters a skating rink and is immediately infatuated with the teenaged Tonya. The two begin a whirlwind teen romance, infuriating her mother. When LaVona Fay expresses displeasure, Tonya and Jeff move in together and eventually marry. Jeff’s friend Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser) becomes Tonya’s bodyguard when Tonya’s skating becomes nationally recognized. It is not a fanatical fan base that Tonya needs protection from. She needs protection from her soon to be ex-husband Jeff Gillhooly.
Told from multiple perspectives, I,Tonya presents Tonya Harding’s side of the story. Margot Robbie (who also stars as the title character) has produced a dark comedy of people who have stupid thoughts, which leads to stupid talk creating stupid actions. Many people remember Nancy Kerrigan getting clubbed in the knee before the 1994 Olympics. Many people forget about the rogue’s gallery of fools that led to the assault. I,Tonya is a humorous reminder.
The soundtrack features many songs from Tonya’s childhood in the 1970s. It would have been timelier if we heard more tunes from 1994. However, this is a minor quibble for a movie that is filled with many details within the frame.
As the Kerrigan – Harding showdown resides into history, a news story featuring the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman is seen in the background. One sensationalized story is quickly replaced by another.
The ensemble of actors really sinks their teeth into their roles. From beginning to end, Margot Robbie owns this movie with both a hair trigger temper and sincere charm. Allison Janney portrays a darker version of the role she plays on her CBS Broadcast sitcom Mom. With her Moe Howard, from the three Stooges, haircut, Janney’s LaVona Fay’s abuse is mean and dark, yet the actress taps into a strange humanity toward the character. When she is not around, the audience misses their LaVona Fay.
Based on the performances of Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, I,Tonya is making news on the current awards circuit [Janney won Best Supporting Actress at Golden Globes]. As we prepare for the 2018 Winter Olympics, expect to hear more about I,Tonya.