“America…they want someone to love, but they want someone to hate.”
All she wanted to do was be the best figure skater in America, but instead became one of the biggest punchlines of the 90s.
It doesn’t matter that she was the first woman ever to perform a triple axel during an international event, because self-proclaimed redneck Tonya Harding didn’t have the right image. With her cigarettes, blue nail polish, heavy metal playlist and self-made tacky leotards, Tonya was the anti-image of figure skating.
If there’s one image most people don’t see in Harding, it’s that she is a survivor. She’s a survivor of abuse: first from her mother, then from her husband and finally from America.
This is Tonya’s opportunity to tell her side of the story about how it wasn’t her fault, and she’ll be the first to tell you that. Tonya Harding is America.
I, Tonya is an empathetic biopic that dives into the events before and after the 1994 Winter Olympics.
Everyone seems to remember the story differently; the incident involving Nancy Kerrigan that led to the end of Tonya Harding’s career in figure skating. Whether or not Harding had any involvement, one thing always remains clear – she was guilty in the court of public opinion.
“On the one side, I feel like we’ve done a very honest portrayal. When I set out to make the film, she’s been such a villain and a punchline in our society for so long, and I loved that challenge to just change that perspective. I really felt like it was there in Steven’s script that, by the end of the movie, we should empathize with her. I know it’s a tall order with such a huge public persona that we have, but I really felt it was possible with Margo’s performance, with this script.” director Craig Gillespie via IndieWire
One of the more gripping and haunting aspects of the movie is Harding’s relationship with her mother, played tremendously by future Academy Award winner Allison Janney. Tonya Harding has stated that by the time she was seven-years-old, she was mentally and physically abused by her mother. However, her mother has admitted to only one instance of hitting Tonya at an ice rink, and that’s the extent of abuse. Warning: there are many scenes of abuse that are so casual in the Harding household that will make you uncomfortable.
Does the film excuse Harding’s behaviors or paint her out to be a victim? Not really. It just gives you the perspective the media never allowed you to see.
“Sympathetic but not too sympathetic, her performance is all that allows the film to maintain its tenuous hold over its queasy tragicomedy. The tone might have to be this way in order for people to take it seriously — Harding’s story couldn’t have survived the grim “Foxcatcher” treatment — but Robbie is able to glide from victim to villain and back again and make it look like one fluid stride.” via IndieWire
When it comes time for Oscar nominations, you’ll absolutely see Janney and hopefully Robbie in the top tier of names called for supporting actress and lead actress.
Does “trashy” Tonya Harding deserve a second chance in the public eye? Maybe not, but this movie gives one hell of a convincing argument for Harding’s side of the story that the media didn’t cover.