Resident Australian Phoebe Christofi gives her opinions on I, Tonya an Australian film about American figure skater Tonya Harding
Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie): the fierce and arguably trashy figure skating champion who took the world by storm in the 1990’s; and not necessarily for the right reasons. Documenting the story of her skating career from ages three to twenty-three, we see the heartache, the humour, the abuse, and the achievements of a young Tonya Harding, paired with the recounts of a Tonya in her late forties. The film is an artistic representation of a single person versus all of society, and the expectations which are imposed on a person from a young age. Harding never had a fair chance though: the judges were prejudiced, her mother was an a**hole, she was in an abusive relationship, was extremely poor, and was expected to be an ice princess – no easy feat.
With an Australian actress and Australian director, both Margot Robbie and Craig Gillespie managed to portray the stereotypical American white-trash family that Harding was so well known for perfectly. The film shows the different perspectives of the skater, the husband, the mother, the coach, and the bodyguard. Gillespie artistically integrated these by having Robbie narrate the film as the scenes were happening. By breaking the fourth wall, the film morphed into the style of a mockumentary. This was further enhanced as the main characters re-enacting the interviews of the real people recounting the events which occurred, but years later. It was funny, but serious, and the comedic elements did not detach the audience from the serious components, and vice versa. It kept you waiting in anticipation – was Tonya going to make you laugh, or would Jeff make your hand go to your throat?
Robbie was tough, delicate, all neat, sharp edges, and subtle softness – everything a figure skater should be. Both on the ice, and when she was her mother (Alison Janney) and husbands’ (Sebastian Stan) private punching bag was when Harding’s character was at its strongest and most vulnerable, and Robbie did well to portray that. With a performance like that, it’s no wonder that she’s been nominated for numerous awards, not to mention the Oscar.
A further outstanding performance was that of Janney, who portrayed Harding’s mother: the alcoholic, abusive, and fiercely sassy, LaVona. Janney was the complete embodiment of a show-mum turned psycho. Every second word out of her mouth was crass, her behaviour was damaging, and yet she absolutely owned the screen. Just like Robbie, Janney brilliantly displayed the strength that would ultimately build Tonya into a star, but what also arguably brought her crushing back down. Furthermore, Sebastian Stan as the husband of Harding, Jeff Gillooly, was unlikeable, abusive, evasive, sexual, and yet strangely considerate – everything you imagine the real Gillooly to be like. Believe me when I say it was because his portrayal of the character was so believable and not because he was psychologically unhinged and made me lowkey uncomfortable…. but that would be a lie.
VERDICT: Overall the film was worth the hype. It was clever, it was fun, it was sad, and it was shocking. Basically it covers all bases, but more than anything, it was raw in its alleged truth (despite it potentially being false…), which in this day and age, and furthermore in the film industry, is perhaps the hardest thing to rely on.