Review – I, Tonya

Sympathy is a strange and complex emotion, especially when it involves criminality.

It is difficult to find sympathy for the pharmaceutical companies when they are sentenced to pay billions of dollars by juries when they have strayed from the lawful and moral path, and while some may eyeball the monetary figures with gaping eyes, the sentence is justifiable:  if we punish them enough, then they will be disinclined to do the same in the future.  The same mindset can lead one to think of Germany’s war reparations after World War I (except, oops, they did it again a few decades later).

The question of crime and punishment, the specifics of: “Okay, they did this very bad thing, so we’re gonna make them pay…but how much?” is sometimes clear, but sometimes not;  if one does not wish to dwell on the grand complexities of Germany’s war debt, or what Merck and Pfizer are really up to, and instead wants to focus on a more tabloid-esque topic, one only need to watch I, Tonya.

Warning: if you find that you are unwilling to listen to her and her side of the story…then that is all the more reason to see the film.

It is a mockumentary of a crime story that is inspired by true (??) events;  I like to think of it as Goodfellas meets Best In Show with a little Thin Blue Line mixed in.  It is fully aware that you cannot know the “true” truth, since it varies from person to person, and almost to extreme lengths (such as in this bizarre case).  Right from the start, it alerts the audience that they will be watching “wildly contradictory” interviews from Tonya and the other important players in her story.

While the film’s approach to telling the story is unique, it also demonstrates some of the most creative 4th wall breakings I’ve ever seen in cinema;  the characters are given the opportunity to comment on their storylines, and while this allows them to speak their mind even while the film keeps rolling, it still confines them within it, rendering them essentially powerless – not unlike Harding and the subsequent media firestorm that followed her, even years after her skating career was ended.

Allison Janney can steal the show with the roll of an eye and the gesture of a hand, and she does.  Margot Robbie, though she might look more like Nancy Kerrigan than she does Tonya Harding, is excellent at bringing the certain grittiness that the role needed.  Grittiness, and desperation.

Some scenes are difficult to watch – regardless of what one’s personal feelings are toward the real Harding, Robbie truly knows how to invoke sympathy in Harding’s most embarrassing and trying moments.

But, of course, there is the possibility of the entire story being completely 100% fallible!  Do we believe her?  Do we believe him?  How do we know what we know?  The answer is: there is no answer.

What IS certain is this: it’s a fun film –  one that doesn’t bore, and will test your openness to hear another side to a story – the antagonist’s side.  Plus, if you happen to be one of the Harding haters, rest assured:  Janney treats her like the ultimate red-headed stepchild.


**Rating: 94/100**

>>Person to see this movie with: Nancy Kerrigan.

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