Film Review: I, Tonya

Marianna Bacallao, Photo Editor

Three-time Oscar nominee, “I, Tonya” is a dark comedy that depicts the life of American figure skater Tonya Harding and her involvement in the 1994 attack against her competition, Nancy Kerrigan.

Harding started her skating career young, and before her ex-husband orchestrated a hit on Kerrigan, she was best known as the first female figure skater to successfully complete a triple axel.

Lead writer Steve Rogers set up interviews with Harding and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly to figure out what actually happened in 1994, but their stories had glaring contradictions. Instead of depicting his film as indisputable fact, Rogers decided “to put everyone’s point of view out there and then let the audience decide,” he said in a talk with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation.

The film combines contrasting interviews, fourth wall breaks and reenactments into one cohesive narrative, while still maintaining good tension and suspense throughout its 119 minute runtime.  

While “I, Tonya” has fast pacing, smart dialogue and stunning visuals that seamlessly blend stunt double with actor, it’s the open-ended direction that really makes it an engaging movie. It provides the audience with a lot of answers as to why Harding ended up the way she did — absent father, apathetic mother, possibly abusive husband, her own innate nature — but it never comments on which is right.

Margot Robbie, who stars as Harding, does a phenomenal job of embodying her character. It’s not surprising most of the nominations “I, Tonya” is getting revolve around Robbie’s performance.

Robbie follows the emotional nuances Harding goes through as she develops from an overeager and overbearing 15-year-old skating protege to an Olympic athlete on the verge of a breakdown. In her performance, Robbie seems to understand both the irredeemable and endearing aspects of the person she’s representing and doesn’t romanticize or demonize her, instead opting to portray her as a three-dimensional person.

This film is strongly cathartic overall, but its allowing the audience to look at all the facts and form their own opinion that makes this movie so dynamic and powerful.