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Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 2 years ago

Movie review: 'I, Tonya'

A scathingly funny script and snappy scoring contribute to "I, Tonya"'s success.

How did director Craig Gillespie manage to take tabloid trash and turn it into a film masterpiece? In his new mockumentary, he brilliantly examines the life of figure skater Tonya Harding and the infamous "incident" which led to her controversial downfall in 1994.

At age "soft four," is how her mother, LaVona (a fantastic Allison Janney), describes Tonya (an amazing Margot Robbie) when trying to coax a coach to train her. Aside from constantly pushing her daughter to skate, LaVona is verbally and physically abusive toward poor Tonya. And when she marries her boyfriend (Sebastian Stan) he, too beats and berates her. Enduring such negative treatment results in low self esteem to the point where Tonya describes herself as a "redneck" and allows others to call her "white trash." Tonya is not a happy individual.

So skating became her escape from abuse especially when she mastered the triple axel (the only woman to do so at that time). She then describes herself as "the best figure skater in the world." But most importantly, she finally felt loved, something she had sought since childhood. 

The film plays out in present day interviews with flashbacks twenty years after chief rival skater Nancy Kerrigan was assaulted. After which, Tonya was linked to the attack. And although she claimed not having any prior knowledge to the event, she was banned by a judge from ever participating in the sport of skating again. Soon she became known as a monster and eventually lost the elusive love she so eternally craved.

But screenwriter Steven Rogers manages to make Tonya a sympathetic character. Having interviewed Ms.Harding for six hours, he discovered the course of action the film would take. Gillespie's ("Lars and the Real Girl") camerawork is as interesting as the characters who inhabit his film. Employing slow motion shots and placing the actors looking directly into the camera, enhance the story on a visual level. Not to mention the breathtaking skating scenes.

A scathingly funny script and snappy scoring also elevate "I, Tonya" to one fantastic movie. But the performances put forth by Allison Janney and Margot Robbie are absolutely astounding. Janney as the mother from hell, incapable of love and Robbie as the wounded skater who didn't fit the mold, excel beyond imagination. "I, Tonya" has already garnered three Golden Globe nominations, one for Robbie and Janney and one for Best Picture. Perhaps Tonya Harding will finally receive some positive attention.

P.S. If you're interested in learning more about the inside story of Ms. Harding, ABC is airing a special entitled, "Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story."  at 9 p.m. Jan. 11.

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