I, Tonya is a compelling account of a controversial story

This biopic shows Tonya Harding as a real, nuanced person, and not just a name to despise

(Image courtesy of Neon)

By: Jennifer Russell

With the 2018 Winter Olympics now underway, there is no greater time to watch the movie I, Tonya and learn about the former (controversial) Olympic athlete, Tonya Harding. The film itself deserves a gold medal for its successful combination of comedy and drama.

     I, Tonya is based on the life of US figure skater Tonya Harding and the attack on her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, prior to the 1994 Olympics. Writer Steven Rogers and director Craig Gillespie took an artistic and entertaining approach to telling Harding’s story. The movie constantly flips back and forth from a chronological telling of Harding’s youth leading up to the attack to (acted) interviews with characters in the present day. This mode of storytelling also allows Tonya to break the fourth wall and correct any information she disagrees with from her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly’s interviews. The various interviews and the fourth wall breaking they allow are genius on their own because they capture the difficulty of one person trying to tell their story while close friends and family, the media, and entire nations overpower them and tell the story from their own contradicting perspectives.

     While the movie touches on how the media may have abused and manipulated Harding’s story, there is a greater focus on Harding’s difficult home life, as well as exposing the unfair judgment she received in skating competitions strictly because she was not the idealized image of the American woman. Harding’s home life and marriage is often shocking and devastating, yet the blend of comedy amidst the drama made this movie feel more realistic. The witty lines bring the personalities of various characters to life.

     The costumes and casting were also incredible for this film. Every single one of the skating outfits used in the film matched Harding’s outfits she used in her actual performances. Beyond Margot Robbie’s incredible performance as Tonya, it became clear how good Paul Hauser’s role as Shawn Eckhardt, Tonya’s bodyguard, was when the real interviews came on screen during the credits.

     I, Tonya is also a great watch for anyone who enjoys great camera work. There is a wonderful long shot that moves from room to room in Jeff’s house and shows him moping in each place.  On the whole, this movie is both visually pleasing and masterfully written. Even if you’re someone who remains convinced Harding was more involved with the attack on Kerrigan than she claims, this movie can still entertain you and make you sympathize with the injustices Harding surely faced.

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