I, Tonya is the story of US figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) and the dark events that sprung her into the worldwide spot light. The movie starts by telling the story of a young Tonya and the difficult relationship she has with her mother Lavona (Allison Janney) who is an aggressive, pushy and demanding parent, with her determination and the help from Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) a figure skating coach, Tonya grows and develops into a national level figure skater. As we follow Tonya through her competitions we are introduced to her first true love Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) while Tonya’s dealing with love she also needs to deal with the politics of figure skating, she doesn’t have nice clothes and her etiquette isn’t want the judges like, which makes her stand out like a sore thumb. Jeff becomes violent and abusive to Tonya and this starts the dark path leading to the couple plotting to take out a rival of Tonya’s in Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver).
The performances from the leads are brilliant, both Robbie and Stan work well together, when the two are together both are powerful and they have a demanding presence on the screen. Allison Janney steals the movie in her role of an abusive demanding mother, her short aggressive one liners hit home and make the audience feel sorry for Tonya, Oscar buzz for Janney is highly justified with this performance. Another stand out performance is Paul Walter Hauser’s who plays Tonya’s bodyguard Shawn, the dryness of his performance adds to the character and brings a comical aspect to the role.
The screenwriter Steven Rogers has did a brilliant job of taking a well known incident and showing a dark gritty side to the subject matter, the movie is a dark comedy and the comedic moments work very well and the dialogue and scenes are written very well, The movie is directed by Craig Gillespie (Mr. Woodcock, Lars and the Real Girl, The Finest Hours) his previous movies have all dealt with real issues but adding a humor to it and he has found a great balance with I, Tonya.
Overall the movie works very well from all aspects. The lead and supporting actors have great chemistry and this is helped by a great script and directing, the editing and costume design also standout on this as it takes the style of a semi documentary movie and the cuts between those shots fit well and allow the story to go at a good pace, while capturing the 80’s and 90’s environments the images feel legitimate for those eras. I, Tonya has had a lot of award buzz and rightly so.