2018 | 121 minutes | Rated R
Tonya Harding was considered a freak, even though she was arguably the most technically skilled skater of her time. In the wake of the infamous 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan (which she may or may not have had a hand in), Harding was further ostracized, transformed by the nascent 24-hour news cycle into a white-trash demoness—so it’s important that any fictional depiction of her life acknowledge that she was also a real person who suffered. I, Tonya,
is a solid attempt, largely thanks to Margot Robbie’s portrayal of a very human, very sympathetic Tonya. Without sugarcoating Harding’s personality (which could be caustic) or her tragic life (which was full of abuse and abandonment), I, Tonya
tells a familiar story of a woman whose life was ruined by hapless, cruel men and sexist gatekeeping. It has been criticized for its stylized, darkly comic depiction of abuse, but it’s also one of the only portrayals I’ve seen that presents Harding as a person, and that acknowledges she was abused. It’s hard not to root for her in the film—she's a talented weirdo surrounded by bad men, whose raw determination can’t be blunted by an equally abusive and narcissistic mother (an excellent, unnerving Allison Janney) who teaches her to conflate being loved with being hit. It’s impossible not to empathize with Harding, and to imagine what her career and life might have looked like had she been able to make a clean break from her abusive family.
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