There is something unconscionably rebarbative in the factual story of Tonya Hardling (1970-) (Robbie), an erstwhile top-notch American figure skater who falls from grace in the wake of a physical assault inflicted to her fellow teammate/rival Nancy Kerrigan (Carver), with which she may or may not be involved, that is, it represents the most air-headed idiocy and indignity executed by those we might refer to as“peckerwoods”, for wanting of wits, conscience, compassion, even wiles, they are piteous for sure, but there is also a pithy Chinese adage“可怜之人必有可恨之处”,which can be roughly interpreted as: a poor person must have a detestable trait.
DirectorCraig Gillespie briskly soups up this biopic with revelatory modi operandi of four-square faux-interviews and breaking-the-fourth wall gimmick to feed us prompt commentaries and wry afterthoughts apropos of its state of affairs from the subjects, an inviting tactic to piece together the less fluid chronological narratology. And the money-shots are certainly hinged on the re-enactments of Tonya’s historical Olympic performances, and with a helping hand of cutting-edge CGI magic, despite on some occasions we can fairly discern the effect that Robbie’s face is edited onto the gliding skater in the post-production, by and large, the filmmakers have done a cracking job to construct them with a scintillating cinematic sheen.
Apart from a physically backbreaking stunt for Robbie to pull off Tonya’s aptitude on the ice rink, she weaves through the whole shebang with amazing verve and compelling agency, aided by a beneficial factor of the film’s slant on Tonya: blameless in the scandal, and is not someone who is willfully refuses to play along with thetacit rule of figure skating, but simply she is just a different kettle of fish from those elected ice princesses to represent a nation’s international image, a tragic figure falls victim ofthe dark and sanctimonious side of a typical American dream.
Consequentially, Robbie is proudly initiated as an Oscar nominated actress, which bullishly paves the way for her leading lady status among the Hollywood current echelon. But it is Allison Janney’s Oscar-certified showstopper as a monstrously abusive mother that takes this reviewer aback (not in an entirely salutary sense though), as rewarding as to see a veteran of Janney’s caliber finally pays her due to grasp the holy grail, her showy and bitter incarnation of LaVona Golden, Tonya’s mother, ruefully overreaches the boundary between caricature and baring-it-out authenticity.
Still and all, another monster in Tonya’s life, Jeff Gillooly, her abusive first husband played by a smoldering Sebastian Stan, is left disproportionally unsung compared to the hailing laurels received by the two aforementioned ladies, in fact, Stan is far from a sub-par contributor to the film’s hair-trigger dynamism, and rightfully, he transmits Jeff’s pernicious influence with poise and a semblance of inner conflict that is so critical in a role’s wholesome characterization, which is found wanting in both case of LaVona and Shawn Eckhardt (Hauser), the presumed barmy culprit whose presence only reminds us the nadir of human lunacy.
By turns ebullient, over-the-top, rousing(partially thanks to Fleetwood Mac’s infectious THE CHAIN), sardonic and archly cynical, I, TONYA holds sway as a rebuttal to the truth-debunking trend and flags up the inherent impediment in front of everyone’s upstream battle: we cannot choose our parents, but can we choose our own path then? Not really, as Tonya’s story tells us, when something so hardwired such as one’s upbringing, stands in your way, just suck it up and keep your heads above the water.
referential film: Gillespie’s LARS AND THE REAL GIRLS (2007, 7.1/10)