I, Tonya — 6/10

I, TONYA (2017, Craig Gillespie)

Superficially entertaining, but leaves a bit of a bad taste. For example, it spends two hours trying to turn Harding into the victim. But you know what, I can think of one other person involved in the Nancy Kerrigan attack incident that was maybe a little bit more of a victim, hmm?

Not that Gillespie doesn’t get a lot of good mileage out of exposing audiences to Harding’s monstrous mother (played with ferocious exactitude by Janney, who has earned the Oscar she’ll surely get), abusive husband (hard to believe this is the same Winter Soldier), and discriminating USFSA. But he also wants to have it both ways. If Harding wasn’t scored honestly, why did landing the triple give her victories? Was it her terrible appearance and lack of a wholesome image that kept her down, or was it her broken laces, mental anguish, domestic violence, and criminal convictions that ruined her career? There are a litany of excuses for Harding not achieving what she wanted in life, and everyone is to blame here except Harding herself. For a film that’s trying to put forth a feminist reading of a woman unfairly maligned by a society eager to turn her into a punchline, Gillespie sure doesn’t give her much responsibility.

Problems at the core aside, there’s still a lot to enjoy in a single watch of this: Robbie is fiercely dedicated, turning the fact that she was grossly miscast into a challenge she overcame with her volcanic talent. The laughs are explosive and come at surprising times (often at the gall Janney’s dialogue). And despite the on-the-nose lyrical needle drops, the soundtrack and editing give this movie-of-the-week story a rapid kick to keep everything moving smoothly. I just wonder if Gillespie’s version of THE DISASTER ARTIST (both movies end with brags about how close their recreations were to actual video) would argue for Wiseau being the real victim too.

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