Tuesday, October 24, 2017

I, Tonya

In 1994, O.J. Simpson became the prime suspect in the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. The ensuing trial may have resulted in an acquittal but his reputation was forever tarnished. But this wasn't the first instance (nor the last) from where a sports figure's career gave way to scandal.

Earlier that year, Tonya Harding tried to eliminate the competition by having Nancy Kerrigan injured before the Winter Olympics. (It didn't work.) The ensuing media frenzy resulted in Harding's career coming to an end. But what's the story behind it all?

Shot in a mockumentary style, Craig Gillespie's I, Tonya chronicles the many stormy events that resulted in Harding (Margot Robbie) lashing out at her supposed rival. It doesn't shy away from the various abusive relationships she endured -- from her mother LaVona (Allison Janney) and her husband Jeff (Sebastian Stan) in particular -- but they raise a question: did they lay the seeds for the attack on Kerrigan?

Admittedly the way I, Tonya handles the matter of domestic abuse won't rub people some people the right way (it's certainly not something to laugh at) but it does bring up a certain point. Harding's constantly trying to be the best at figure skating, the result of years of tough love from her mother. How much of her deep-rooted competitiveness affected her life?

I, Tonya has some spotty elements (handling of abuse, dodgy CGI) but there's one thing there's no denying about: how Harding is depicted. Gillespie doesn't capture her as some vindictive competition freak but rather as someone who got associated with the wrong people. (And she's the one who becomes the butt of the joke? That's double standard bullshit right there.) Basically she never should've been ostracized because of others' actions.

My Rating: ****1/2

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