“I was loved for a minute, then I was hated. Then I was just a punch line,” so says Margot Robbie at the end of her tour de force performance in I, Tonya. A tragic finale to the tale of infamous ice-skater Tonya Harding, with her career cut short at 23. The film can draw such a conclusion to one of the most controversial sportspersons thanks to the utterly compelling Robbie.
Guiding us through the moral quandaries and shocks of domestic abuse, the inherent classism of skating, and the birth of a 24-hour news media cycle, Robbie is furiously engaging. A single-minded, extraordinarily tough, and downright funny turn that never reshapes the mythos around the talented if flawed skater. Robbie gets tremendous support from Alison Janney, who plays Harding’s hard-nosed, liquor-happy mother with delicious bite. The strongest scenes are when the two of them face off.
The shortcomings arise from the world built around Robbie and Janney. Whilst it touches on the multiple issues of classism and abuse, I, Tonya never delves into them with any finesse or soul. The film never aims to provide a commentary on these issues, but it falls down by having so many fingers in so many pies and failing to do anything with them.
The ‘edgy’ Goodfellas narrative gives the movie a twist, but it sometimes entangles itself in its own wit and humour. It tries so hard to make something fresh that it can feel overly keen and forced in its big moments. A film bursting with flair, but little delicacy.
I, Tonya is a wholly watchable film led by two sublime performances from Robbie and Janney. The blend of humour and tragedy is welcomed, but there could have been more care to ensure the film didn’t feel as hollow.
CAST: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson
DIRECTOR: Craig Gillespie
WRITER: Steven Rogers
SYNOPSIS: Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding (Robbie) rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.