I, Tonya


How many of us can say we know a world-class figure skater? After today, I think I can. After watching this seamless fusion of docu-drama, real-life drama and mocku-mentary, where characters constantly break through the fourth wall, where one of the biggest scandals in sporting history is turned on its head as a black comedy, I feel I know Tonya Harding personally. The opening credits states upfront it is ‘based on irony-free, wildly contradictory and totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly’. It culminates in the 1994 knee-bashing of Nancy Kerrigan, Harding’s Olympic skating teammate and rival, the ‘incident’ that made Harding the most notorious woman in sports. ‘I, Tonya’ shows her as the foul-mouth, chain-smoking outsider the sports world was not ready for. Try as she would, she could not separate her bold proud-to-be-a-red-neck image from her skating. Her mother, husband, his best friend, along with Harding herself, collectively became a skater career’s biggest enemy and worst nightmare. We see a train wreak unfolding, a disaster waiting to happen, complete with familial abuse, wife beating, and the wonky scheme to take down a sports rival going down in Olympics infamy. Working with an excellent cast, it is clear director Craig Gillespie is faced with a script in which the truth was irrefutably stranger than fiction. Which is why, while we find ourselves rooting for this white trash of a sportswoman, along with feeling a great sense of missed opportunity and wasted talent, we are made to laugh at and with the tragedy.


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