In 1994, the figure-skating world was rocked by a brutal attack on US medal hopeful Nancy Kerrigan. The more shocking news was that the attack was allegedly conceived and executed by those close to—and perhaps including—rival figure skater Tonya Harding. You might expect to see a film about Kerrigan, her triumphant recovery, and her silver medal at the Lillehammer Olympics, but that is not the story we get here. This is Tonya’s story.
Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie, Suite Française) was the first American woman to achieve figure skating’s holy grail move, completing a triple axel in competition in 1991. But success on the ice was not always matched with happiness in her personal life. She grew up constantly at odds with her abusive mother and fought for everything she had. Though an accomplished technical skater, pleasing the judges proved tougher and she was criticized for her lack of artistry and unconventional “trailer park” beauty. When she met Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), he provided a long-awaited escape from her mother, an encouraging voice in her corner, and fatefully, connections to a sleazy underworld.
Approaching these real-life characters without judgment, Steven Rogers’ sharp script and Craig Gillespie’s (Lars and the Real Girl) bold direction combine to deliver a shamelessly entertaining film that is part mockumentary and part tragicomedy. With a transformative performance from Margot Robbie as Tonya and an unforgettable turn from Allison Janney as her mother, you will come away with a better understanding of the life behind the tabloid headlines. You might just find you like her, too.
“Despite the darker edges, I, Tonya embraces the surreality of the story and winningly plays it mostly for comedy, with dips into drama, while crucially never mocking the central players.” (Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist)
“It’s a serious blast, with a plot that zigs and zags (but only because it sticks, within reason, to the facts), and a cast of characters who are so eccentrically scuzzy no one could have dreamed them up.” (Owen Gleiberman, Variety)
“Robbie, for her part, has never been better. She does a brilliant job of skating along the thin line that runs between glory and the gutter. Sympathetic but not too sympathetic, her performance is all that allows the film to maintain its tenuous hold over its queasy tragicomedy.” (David Ehrlich, Indiewire)