Present Day Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) et al recount Tonya’s life from her rough childhood full of abuse from her mother La Vona (Allison Janney) to her relationship with her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). They begin at the beginning, when young Tonya (Mckenna Grace) had a love for skating and was immediately talented, that La Vona shoved her way in getting Tonya into a class taught by her future coach, Diane (Julianne Nicholson). Even then La Vona still shouted insults at Tonya, thinking she was pushing her to be better. At the age of fifteen, Tonya goes on her first date with Jeff, accompanied by La Vona. Their relationship starts off good, but he becomes abusive. Still Tonya hopes that things will change with him. Skating, Tonya finds herself not getting a fair shake because she comes from a lower class. Eventually she fires Diane in frustration. Meanwhile, she marries Jeff, an occasion ruined when La Vona shows up to insult her. Then in 1991, with a new coach, Tonya skates at Nationals in Minneapolis and becomes the first woman to successfully land a triple axel. The success creates even more friction in her relationship with Jeff, and Tonya temporarily leaves him. But being with Jeff damages her career, she finds herself coming up short in competition behind Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) and misses her shot at the Olympics. Things deteriorate with Jeff and Tonya files for divorce. She soon finds herself doing her mother’s job, waitressing, and having nothing to show for her skating career. Then Diane sees her and tells her the next Olympics will only be in two years, and Tonya takes her up on her offer to train. As she prepares for the regional championships, Tonya hears that a death threat was called in against her. Thinking it was Nancy, Jeff and Tonya’s bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser) decide to send her death threats in return to throw her off her game. So how did things wind up with Nancy being taken out with a retractable baton?
I, Tonya is a tragically comic look at the world’s most infamous figure skater, making Tonya a fully dimensional person and letting the audience appreciate how she had a lot of things thrown at her (literally) and yet she still managed to make it to the top of skating, briefly, despite it all. The movie gets it right with casting Margot Robbie as Tonya and even more right with Allison Janey as La Vona who steals so many scenes (especially her interviews.) That being said, the movie effectively uses the interview testimonials for humor and further solidify the characters’ perspectives for the audience. While sometimes it seems like an easy way out, the characters are so over the top that it feels appropriate in this occasion. In terms of story, there isn’t much of one other than recounting what happened, but that being said the movie does lose its way by diving too far into “the incident.” Much of the incident is following two bumbling idiots (whose stupidity feels played up) which is funny at first, but without Tonya on the screen it feels like a big detour and proves there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Still, the movie is brisk enough and shows the contradiction and complexity of a figure the public has largely thought they’ve known everything about it and is surprisingly as moving as it is comedic. Definitely don’t skate around this, and check it out.