The events of 1970 are brought back into the spotlight with Craig Gillespie’s new biographical film, I, Tonya. Based on true events (in this case, multiple versions of the events), the mockumentary-style film relives the rivalry between figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan and the ‘incident’ that took place at the 1994 Winter Olympics.
In 1991, figure skater Tonya Harding (played by Margot Robbie) becomes the first American woman to complete a triple axel jump during a competition. In 1994, her world comes crashing down when her ex-husband conspires to injure Nancy Kerrigan, a fellow Olympic hopeful, in a poorly conceived attack that forces the young woman to withdraw from the national championship. Harding’s life and legacy instantly become tarnished as she’s forever associated with one of the most infamous scandals in sports history.
The movie, for the most part, is told from Tonya’s perspective – with ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (played by Sebastian Stan) sharing his perspective too. Their sides of the story rarely match up, which makes the story more compelling. The added mockumentary-style aspect brings you in and out of the story to get personal information from the characters. The black comedy also breaks the fourth wall multiple times.
The most memorable scene was the 1991 National Competition, where Harding first completed the triple axel. The film version was almost an exact replica to Harding’s actual performance. The camera angles, music and expression in Robbie’s body and face build up to climax of her completing the jump. To me, it was one of the most powerful scenes in the film.
I wasn’t born at the time, so this was my first time hearing about this event and the film did a great job at telling the story. It would have been interesting to see more perspectives – like Nancy’s and especially Shawn’s – to get a greater understanding of what happened and why.
There also isn’t a clear ending to each of the characters. We see how Tonya, Jeff, Shawn and his accomplice end their part of the story, but Tonya’s mother, LaVona, for example doesn’t have a complete ending.
Overall, the movie relatively tells the infamous story correctly and the casting is phenomenal (Note: stay to the end to see the actual interviews and Tonya’s performance).
Highly recommended if you enjoy compelling stories and figure skating.
– Written by Amy Seaborn