A biopic that was given an early glimpse for critics at the Toronto Film Festival back in September, I, Tonya is gearing for a limited release domestically this month. The title will bring the infamous Tony Harding scandal of 1994 back to the mainstream to detail how the figure skater would orchestrate an attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan.
The reviews have been nothing but glowing for a key trio - director Craig Gillespie, screenwriter Steven Rogers and lead actress Margot Robbie (Tonya Harding). Not dark enough to be a drama but not light enough to be a pure comedy, this is a warts and all narrative that could easily have been derived from the Cohen Brothers - expect this one is true.
Robbie Pirouettes From Pain to Pleasure For Engaging Tony Tale
Bob Chipman of Geek.com issues 3/4 stars to say that the moments of genre shift aren't as smooth as he would like, but Robbie's performance is all encompassing enough to go along for the ride.
"It’s overwhelmingly Robbie’s show," he argues. "Walking away unscathed from the wreck of Suicide Squad already handily proved she’s a natural-born movie star, but she’s doing next-level work here. She’s carrying the whole film for the most part, and has to make quick turns from comedy to dark-drama whenever the film wants to hit the audience with a gut-punch tonal shift... Director Craig Gillespie doesn’t quite manage the intentionally jarring shifts between comedy and drama or reality versus fantasy-sequence in all cases. But these are minor details, and as a star-vehicle, for Robbie, it’s a total winner. Recommended."
Julian Roman echoes those thoughts at MovieWeb, yet makes an argument to say this is a picture that should be discussed during Oscar season.
"I, Tonya is a gem, one of the best films of the year. Craig Gillespie, Margot Robbie, and Allison Janney are exceptional," he writes. "The film is a maelstrom of emotions. You will laugh hysterically, then gasp in horror at the shocking violence... I can't believe I laughed so hard in a movie where a young woman is constantly beaten. It's a damning indictment as well to the leeches that sank her."
Anti-Sports Story Inverts The Tragedy-To-Triumph Arc
Matt Goldberg believes this feature based on the events of 1994 will have many armchair critics rethinking their opinion on Hardy herself and the role the media played during that time. He handed out a B+ rating at Collider.
"With a wickedly sharp script by Steven Rogers and outstanding performances from the lead cast, especially Margot Robbie, I, Tonya rewrites the stale script both of Harding’s legacy and the tragedy-to-triumph sports narrative," Goldberg states. "In its own weird way, I, Tonya functions as the anti-sports story. Rather than telling us about an athlete who overcame adversity, I, Tonya is the tale of an athlete consumed by tragedy and misfortune. History attempted to paint Harding as an evil mastermind when it really looks like she was deprived of control at every turn."
Describing I, Tonya as an "oddly fresh take on an old tabloid tale," John DeFore at THR reserved special praise for the filmmakers. The critic would enjoy a 121-minute production that focused on each participant with careful attention.
"Managing to both revel in its subject's trashiness and convince us she's far more innocent than America believed, Craig Gillespie's I, Tonya reintroduces us to the most infamous athlete-villain of the first half of 1994 (that was the summer of O.J., you'll recall) and lets her, for once, have the last say," he concludes. "Though this is a finely crafted vehicle for Robbie, the filmmakers are wise enough to let Harding's mean old bat of a mother take as much of the attention as she wants, which is most of it, most of the time... Despite its title, the pic is deliberate in spreading the narrative focus around."
I, Tonya opens across the US on December 8.