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I, Tonya ~ A Capsule Movie Review

I, Tonya ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

Figure skater Tonya Harding is a high school dropout, a self-professed redneck girl. She’s crude and unsophisticated; she just doesn’t fit in with the American ideal of what a female champion female figure skater should be. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Her mother is a foul-mouthed, cigarillo-smoking harridan with the social graces of a rattlesnake. From the time Tonya is four years old, her mother (the figure skating equivalent of a stage mother) pushes her to be the best, spending all the money she makes as a waitress on training for Tonya.

Then Tonya meets Jeff Gillooly, a beautiful but dumb young man who, through nincompoopery, all but sabotages Tonya’s figure skating career in a few short years. Jeff has a very short temper; he punches and slaps Tonya on very little provocation, which Tonya confesses she believes she deserves. (She is then forced to cover her facial abrasions with makeup.) Jeff and Tonya get married, and it’s a tumultuous union, with much yelling, hitting, slapping and discharge of firearms.

Regardless of what’s wrong in Tonya’s life, she is good at figure skating. What she does on the ice is a kind of magic. She executes the extremely difficult “triple axel,” the first female skater to perform this move in competition, and earns a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the 1992 Olympics in France. She doesn’t do so well in the Olympics, however; she comes in fourth. “When you come in fourth,” she says, “you get the six a.m. shift at Spud Heaven.”

After the Olympics debacle, Tonya believes she is finished with figure skating, but her star rises again and she has a shot at the next winter Olympics in Norway. Faced with stiff competition as she is, her husband and his idiotic friend, Shawn Gerhardt, try to help her by sabotaging, ineptly, one of her principal competitors. This doesn’t work out very well and results in criminal charges, a huge scandal, and the end of Tonya’s skating career.

I, Tonya stars Margot Robbie, who I remember from The Wolf of Wall Street, as Tonya Harding; Sebastian Stan, a Romanian actor who speaks American perfectly, as Jeff Gillooly; and the ubiquitous Allison Janney as Tonya’s she-wolf mother. They are all perfect. Never a dull moment. It upholds my belief that trashy, redneck characters are a lot more interesting than wine-sipping, angst-ridden, self-absorbed yuppies who have stock portfolios and Masters of Arts degrees. I know them and they bore me to death.

Copyright © 2018 by Allen Kopp

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