I had low expectations about the movie “I, Tonya” speculating it was going to the story of famous or some would say infamous, Tonya Harding, a world class US figure skater who had a life full of drama highlighted by the “incident” involving arch rival Nancy Kerrigan.
Her abject skating prowess interspersed with her checkered career was familiar to sports fan like myself but also John/Jane Q. Public. When it came to the Winter Olympics, and especially the Women’s Figure Skating segment, a huge portion of America stopped and watched. Fans and non-fans would watch both the womens skating program of US Olympic Trials and the Olympics themselves. They too would bebe quite familiar with the athletes regularly and well before the Tonya/Nancy Kerrigan “Incident”. Probably it all began with the gold medal by Peggy Fleming in 1968 and often America would be the home to the gold medal winning women’s figure skater ice princess for decades. Unfortunately, America’s cumulative interest in the Olympics has waned (though probably never more than this years event).
Really hard to know the accuracy of the “I, Tonya” story line in terms of the “he said/she said” story involving the star, played wonderfully by Margot Robbie, and her family nemisis namely her Mom and husband.
But in this sport of prim and proper, of prince and princesses, the masses knew back in the late 80’s and early 90’s that Tonya Harding was cut from a different cloth. I just didn’t think this movie about the crazy life of Ms. Harding, think Lindsay Lohan or equivalent drama filled celebrity, would be that interesting on the big screen because we all knew “the story”.
Though a lifelong sports junkie of professional and amateur sports, sports films portraying athletes, athletic events, etc., on the movie screen have had mixed results. However, I was intrigued when I saw a 70+ point favorable rating on moviefone.com (generally a good indicator).
Well I thought the movie was most engaging and I think the film portrays Tonya more so as the victim influences by a really rough upbringing with dysfunctional parents, lots of alcohol, beatings and language combined with a lower blue collar economic living situation. Her Mom, played spectacularly by Allison Janney, slaughters that role (understandable why she is getting post season nominations and awards). You will never forget her and when they cut to her in real life in the credits, you think you are seeing the same person.
Because she was raised in a dysfunctional family, her choice of a boyfriend/husband follows suit on a similar path of a life of bad choices and bad people.
The movie was very good and transports the viewer back 20-25 years as we learn more about Tonya Harding DNA which helps explain her very untraditional, textbook expectation of a US figure skating athlete and princess. We do learn about her numbnuts husband and his low life, idiot friends that we got to know back then. The film just digs deeper and really works. Hence the “incident” with Nancy Kerrigan didn’t become the focus of the film, rather just another piece in the rare wildcard life of ice of a US figure skating personality. Back then, bad ass, non traditional Tonya Harding was very unliked by both the ice skating world and most of main stream America. This film sways the pendulum the other way or at least to the middle and that worked for me.