“I, Tonya” tells the controversial story of America’s infamous figure skater in an unsettling, tendentious way. In 1994, Tonya Harding was the second most well-known person in the world, right after former president Bill Clinton. Her story has resurrected and is now being told in an interesting way. Her life story is shown in a different light — a light that proves her to be innocent.
Before we get into the actual movie, it is important to note how it’s set up. If you’re familiar with “The Office,” then you know how valuable faux interviews with the characters are in between scenes. In “I, Tonya” each character is given a platform to speak their side of Harding and how her career tragically ended.
Craig Gillespie, the film’s director, was set up for success with the incredible true story of how an Olympic-level athlete was banned from her sport for life. The movie began with Harding’s childhood. Her mother, played by Allison Janney, never gave Harding a break. From age 3, Harding was hit by her mother and told that she wasn’t good enough. Even when Harding was older and heading for the Olympics, her mother wasn't pleased.
When Harding was about 15, she ended up in a violent relationship that lasted until her young adult years. These horrific scenes were highlighted in the movie and showed how constant abuse can shape a person. Harding became accustomed to having bruises cover her arms and blood on her face, which gave her a hard shell that make many people think she was responsible for the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.
Though the entire movie leads up to the attack on Kerrigan, Harding is given a minuscule role in the film. On the night of Jan. 6, 1994, Kerrigan was struck on the knee with a metal rod, which would later be associated with Harding. Though tragic, her side of the story is never mentioned because it isn’t what people came to see. People want to know what goes on in the mind of the antagonist.
With “I, Tonya,” we only get to see Harding through her relationships with other people. We never see her plan out the attack because, according to Gillespie’s version of the story, that never happened. It’s similar to a documentary depicting O.J. Simpson as innocent or having one of the women from “The Real Housewives” not throw wine at each other — it is unexpected and leaves you with an unsatisfied taste.
The movie would be nothing without its special effects. Though Margot Robbie learned how to skate for the film, special effects were absolutely necessary. There are at least a dozen skating scenes, with each being more impressive than the last.
Along with impressive special effects, the movie has what seems to be the perfect soundtrack. “Barracuda,” by Heart, plays as Harding is training for the olympics and “The Chain,” by Fleetwood Mac plays in the aftermath of the Kerrigan attack. The music is perfect for anyone who lived through Harding’s fame.
If you were a functioning adult when Harding allegedly attacked Kerrigan, then you know how our society turned Harding into the villain. The movie defends Harding and it’s up to the viewer to decide what is true, which may be difficult because Robbie is so lovable.
Once the film ends, the credits are interrupted with actual interviews and clips of the real people. We get to see what Gillespie was trying to convey, which gives the entire movie a sense of closure, but it begs one final question: just how true is Gillespie’s portrayal of Tonya Harding?