I have been excited to see a lot of upcoming films recently and the latest I was lucky enough to see was I, Tonya. A film led by Margot Robbie in the titular role, I was hoping for the best with this film. I didn’t really have my expectations that high because I hadn’t been focused on this project for very long; however, I was interested to see how this film would play out.
What is the real story?:
I must start by saying, I knew NOTHING about Tonya Harding before going into this film; so as well as a source of enjoyment, this film was also an education for me. As I didn’t want to ruin the experience for myself, I didn’t research anything about her or “the incident”, before I watched this film. However, since my viewing I have looked into the events with a keen interest.
The following summary will have SPOILERS so: if you don’t know the story or don’t want to know the story, skip past this to the general review.
Synopsis with spoilers (I have sourced my information mainly from here🙂
February 1991- Tonya Harding becomes the first woman in US history to land the triple axel in competition at the US Figure Skating Championships and becomes national champion.
January 6th 1994- An assailant clubs Nancy Kerrigan, Harding’s rival and friend, on the right knee with a metal baton and she is forced to withdraw from the US figure skating championships, Harding wins.
January 11th 1994- The FBI begin an investigation into an allegation that Shawn Eckardt (Tonya Harding’s bodyguard) and Jeff Gillooly (Tonya Harding’s husband at the time) co-ordinated the attack on Kerrigan.
January 12th 1994- Eckardt confesses to the FBI and implicates Harding, Gillooly and two of his associates: Shane Stant and Derrick Smith. At this stage this the FBI have grounds to press charges for conspiracy to second-degree assault.
January 15th 1994- Figure skating officials meet to make a decision on whether to allow Harding to compete at the Olympics in February.
January 16th 1994- Nancy Kerrigan returns to practice after ten days to get ready for the Olympics.
January 18-19th 1994- Harding divorces Gillooly after a 10 hour meeting with investigators and declares her innocence. Meanwhile, Gillooly turns himself in following an arrest warrant.
January 23rd 1994- Investigators state they have enough evidence to arrest Harding however are waiting to build a stronger case before they do.
January 26-27th 1994- Gillooly confesses to the FBI and again implicates: Harding, Eckardt, Stant and Smith. Harding continues to train but releases a statement to the press that she failed to report details of the assault before it took place. (Many put this down to the abuse and threats she received from her ex-husband.)
February 1st 1994- Gillooly pleads guilty to racketeering in exchange for a 24-month sentence (which he served only 8 months of.)
February 12th 1994- Harding is allowed to skate in the Olympics.
February 25th 1994- Kerrigan wins the Olympic silver, while Harding finishes 8th after her lace broke mid-routine. Although she stops and then is allowed to continue: the flow and magic was gone.
March 16th 1994- Harding pleads guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution and is placed on probation for three years and is ordered to pay $160,000 in fines and “contributions”. Reluctantly, Harding resigns from the US Figure Skating Association.
For the rest of her life Tonya Harding has lived in the spotlight/shadow of the famous “incident” that cost her everything she once held dear, most importantly skating.
Now, back to the regular review…
What did I think?
Positives- I thought this film was very interesting and really engaged me throughout and here is why:
- The acting- Allison Janney is exceptional. If she doesn’t win the best supporting actress Oscar; then the world is in trouble, as our perception of things has become completely skewed. Margot Robbie is turning into quite the power house in the film industry and I expect to see much more great work from her in the near future.
- The Structure- The film is structured in a way that is completely different to anything I have seen before. The mix between story and later life interview was very intriguing and really gave the film an extra dimension. I also liked that at the end of the film, it didn’t just finish, instead we saw a clip of the real Tonya Harding, back in 1991, when she completed her first triple axel in competition.
- This is a true story- At points I had to pinch myself and say “Jude, you know this is actually real and happened to actual people.” I couldn’t believe what was playing out before my eyes. This crazy cycle of events; actually happened in the real world.
- It didn’t sugarcoat things- This is a very gritty story that doesn’t shy away in its portrayal of Tonya’s very tough life and upbringing. Even her own mother treats her abusive parenting towards Tonya, as a success and says that she “raised a champion knowing [Tonya] would hate [her] for it” and sees her parenting as a “sacrifice”.
Negatives- At some points I felt that the tie between the interviews and story sections were frictional and quite awkward, rather than the slick and interesting as they generally were. Also, I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but Shawn Eckardt’s character, played by Paul Walter Hauser, just felt very odd. I know he is a part of the story, but I just felt he could have been portrayed a little differently; as for me, he didn’t really do anything but had major screen time.
Conclusion- I thought it was a very enjoyable film and had its very good bits as well as a few not so great parts. Overall I felt the good conclusively out did the bad so well done to everyone who was involved in the making of this project. And, GOOD LUCK TO ALLISION JANNEY AND MARGOT ROBBIE FOR THE OSCARS.
My rating- 8.5/10
P.s- Here in England I have had my first day off school in 5 years because of snow. YAY.
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