Set out to try and watch THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017) and you end up watching something else. I really hate when that happens.
So because I’m an uncultured swine, I have no idea who Tonya Harding is, nor do I know anything about her scandals or whatever the hell this movie is about. All I know is that it minds me a little too much of THE BRONZE (2016) and that’s not a good thing.
I’ve only seen the trailers a handful of times, so I can’t remember what the movie even looks like it’s about. If I were to hazard a guess, it’s about a woman who used to be a great figure skater, but then fell from grace and gets involved in illegal shit, but then aims to get back to former glory by learning a lesson. How far off am I?
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Margot Robbie (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN , Z FOR ZACHARIAH , THE WOLF OF WALL STREET , and upcoming films PETER RABBIT  and TERMINAL ), Sebastian Stan (LOGAN LUCKY , CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER , THE COVENANT , and upcoming films THE LAST FULL MEASURE  and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ), and Allison Janney (MISS PEREGRINE , JUNO , and AMERICAN BEAUTY ). In support, we have Bobby Cannavale (JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE , CHEF , PAUL BLART , and upcoming films GOING PLACES  and THE IRISHMAN ), Paul Walter Hauser (upcoming films BLACK KLANSMAN  and SUPER TROOPERS 2 ), and Mckenna Grace (GIFTED , ANGRY BIRDS , and TV show FULLER HOUSE [2016 – ongoing]).
Now for the crew. The director is Craig Gillespie, known for THE FINEST HOURS (2016), FRIGHT NIGHT (2011), and MR. WOODCOCK (2007). Penning the screenplay is Steven Rogers, known for LOVE THE COOPERS (2015), P.S. I LOVE YOU (2007), and HOPE FLOATS (1998). Composing the score is Peter Nashel, known for TV shows, LIE TO ME (2009 – 2011), RUBICON (2010) and LIFE ON MARS (2008 – 2009). The cinematographer is Nicolas Karakatsanis, known for TRIPLE 9 (2016) and THE DROP (2014). Finally, the editor is Tatiana S. Riegel, known for THE FINEST HOURS, BAD WORDS (2013), THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS (2009), and the upcoming GRINGO (2018).
Overall, I can’t say I’m excited, but I’m intrigued. Always down for something that Robbie’s in, but… yeah, I can’t shake this bad taste that this is going to be similar to THE BRONZE. Fuck, I hated that movie.
This is my honest opinion of: I, TONYA
Based on true events set in the 1970’s through the 1990’s. As a child, Tonya Harding (Grace Mckenna) was an ice skating prodigy, and one that her cruel and demanding mother LaVona (Allison Janney) wanted to exploit, making sure she got with the best teachers and in all the best competitions, which Tonya was a great winner. As she became a teenager and an adult (Margot Robbie), she became a sensation, but also developed an attitude problem. Despite her talents, being up to that point in time the first woman to successfully execute two triple Axels in a single competition, among other notable achievements, she wasn’t popular with the judges and never made first place. The film follows her life, her abusive marriage to Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), and the controversies in her career that made her infamous.
Man, there is something about this movie that I just didn’t connect with. It’s by no means bad, don’t get me wrong. In fact, objectively speaking, I didn’t have many problems with it. I can’t put my finger on why this wasn’t up my alley.
Well, positives. Obviously, Robbie is a damned knockout. Holy crap, this woman acted her ass off, putting this right up there with WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) as one of her best performances, though I never bought for a second that she was sixteen years old when she was supposed to play a teen Tonya. Robbie is just too mature-looking. Still, fantastic performance. Tonya is always angry, always has an attitude problem, but considering where she came from, it’s absolutely not a wonder. She never had a chance to grow up like a normal kid, never had a chance to make any really close friends, her marriage was abusive, hell, she barely had a chance to go to school, as her mother pulled her out to focus exclusively on her ice skating, and even that couldn’t be of her own devices, as her mother firmly believed that Tonya skated better when she was angry, so she paid off random dudes to heckle her before she went onto the ice. It would have been an even bigger shock if Tonya was well-adjusted.
Speaking of her Tonya’s mother, let’s talk about Janney. Holy shit, the years of playing a psycho mom on… well, TV show MOM (2013 – 2018) has clearly been building up to this moment. Okay, to be fair, Janney’s character in MOM is NOTHING like LaVona, but Janney sells her performance so expertly, I had a hard time keeping my hatred toward the real-world mother as opposed to the actress, who is probably a real-world sweetheart. Still, LaVona is a grade-A slice of bitch-meat. Jesus, from the moment she’s introduced in the movie, she looks like a gritty R-rated version of Edna Mode from THE INCREDIBLES (2004). She has no respect for anyone or anything, not even herself really. She refuses to let people tell her “no” and refuses to show any measure of love or affection, so long as her daughter was the best in her field. You’d swear to God that LaVona never wanted a daughter, she just wanted a tool to live out a fantasy of her own and show the world that she was an amazing person, rather than her daughter. She talks down to her, never says anything encouraging, and even when she does, it’s so half-assed and layered in self-serving bullshit that you can’t help but agree cheer for the real-world outcome that the two don’t talk much, if at all.
So I guess it sounds like I really like the film, huh? Well… yeah, I guess I do. It’s funny, it’s brutal, hard to watch in the best way, so what about the movie makes me not like it as much as everyone else?
Honestly, it really is “The Bronze” factor. This movie, despite how it’s nowhere near the same in either story or quality of film-making, has a few too many similarities to THE BRONZE, which I thoroughly hated. As I previously stated, both films are about an Olympic athlete who falls from grace, develops an attitude problem, tries to get back into the spotlight, right down to both characters being blonds who bang Sebastian Stan. Although, in retrospect, I wouldn’t be surprised if THE BRONZE was loosely based on Tonya Harding, seeing how the similarities are quite staggering. The differences are obviously there, I, TONYA being about ice skating and THE BRONZE being about gymnastics and I don’t think Tonya Harding ever coached youthful skaters into the Olympics. In retrospect, I could easily make a joke and said that the makers of this film saw THE BRONZE and said, “We can do that so much better” and ultimately did. But because THE BRONZE left such a bad taste in my mouth even over a year later, I still can’t help but make the comparisons. I don’t want to make comparisons. I want to see this movie in its own light. But I just can’t help it. My brain immediately goes back to that trainwreck of cinematic crap.
Having said that, objectively speaking, this movie is really good. Admittedly, my only real problems are that there are some scenes that are slow, and the whole “breaking the fourth wall” when it’s not being an interview isn’t anything that I haven’t seen before. Hell, Robbie did this in THE BIG SHORT (2015). Ultimately, I recommend it. Fierce performances by the entire cast, great and dark humor abound, a great script that gives the actors so much to play with, it’s a great watch if you’re interested. While I can’t claim to love it like everyone else, I can understand why and will never consider arguing. But… yeah, the similarities to it’s far worse knockoff are just too much for me to ignore and I can’t bring myself to love it. Regardless, Tonya Harding may not have been the winner she should have been, but her biopic is gold.
My honest rating for I, TONYA: 5/5
PS: HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!!!