Dir: Craig Gillespie; Screenplay: Steven Rogers
Cast: Margot Robbie. Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, Paul Walter Hauser
120 mins, USA, 2018
Watched separately by Sarah (Netflix), HoneyBee & Jos (Netflix), Ismay (on a flight to Japan)
This is the funny, gripping, tragic, true tale of Tonya Harding, world champion figure skater and first ever to perform the Triple Axel in competition.
For the last month or so I have been unaccustomedly housebound with a beastly rupture in my knee and a swollen leg. Thank heavens for some good stuff on the telly (Fleabag, Russell T Davies’s brilliant Years and Years, The Good Fight, Casualty (as always), on a Sunday evening Line of Duty and then Sally Wainwright’s Gentleman Jack, The Virtues (Shane Meadows/Jack Thorne) and now the return of Killing Eve); thank heavens for Netflix (even tho I know it’s an evil empire, but not as evil as some). A couple of years ago I was planning to go and see I, Tonya with my friend Helen Taylor, but we left it a couple of days, and then, whoosh, it had gone, like Tonya Harding herself speeding through the world of figure skating. So what a pleasure to watch it at last (with leg elevated as per GP’s instructions).
The film is presented as a semi-documentary, the narrative interspersed with interviews with the major players – Tonya, her monstrous mother, and Tonya’s dimwitted ex-husband – or rather with the actors playing them: Margot Robbie as Tonya, Allison Janney as Mrs Harding – monstrous but also monstrously funny – (I’ve loved Allison Janney ever since those glory days of West Wing), Sebastian Stan as the husband.
Ismay: Painfully bleak, but Margot Robbie once again delivers an amazing performance. It made me want to skate, but perhaps not with parents and peers like Tonya had? I watched five or six films during that flight to Japan: I, Tonya is the only one I vividly remember.
HoneyBee & Jos: A humane portrait of a truly bizarre turn of events, highlighting important themes about class, gender & aspiration. Funny, heartbreaking & all done in glorious outfits!
Tonya Harding was a brilliant, bold ice skater, first in the world to perform in competition the unbelievably difficult Triple Axel, but she was poor, working-class, brought up by a chain-smoking, foul-mouthed single mother: a bit of a shock for the genteel, privileged world of American figure skating, which took against her for her home-made costumes and her home-brewed talk. Mrs Harding only ever gave her daughter one good piece of advice: you can f**k dumb; don’t marry dumb. Alas poor Tonya, desperate for love and approval, didn’t listen. She married a stupid violent man who became her manager and foisted on her his even stupider best friend (Paul Walter Hauser) as a bodyguard. Between the two of them they ruined her life: after the ‘incident’ – as all the witnesses call it – in 1994, in which Tonya’s rival Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) was attacked and had her knee bashed in, Tonya was banned from ever again competing in figure skating. She was only twenty-four.
The whole film fizzes with energy, wit and bravado, just like Tonya Harding, all the way through the terrible story. Watch it now.
PS: I inadvertently deleted the images from some of my recentish reviews as I was trying to tidy up my image gallery. So, my dear two or three faithful followers, you may get some posts from me in your inboxes as if they were new posts, but they will just be the earlier posts with images reinstated, or maybe new images put in.