Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson, Caitlin Carver, Bojana Novakovic, Bobby Cannavale
OUR RATING: ★★★☆☆
Black comedy-drama directed by Craig Gillespie which is based on unbelievable but true events of the American figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) and her ex-husband and Jeff Gilooly (Sebastian Stan), who hired a man to break the leg of Harding’s competitor Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) at the National Figure Skating Championship in 1994, which led to the end of Harding’s career in figure skating.
Best Quotes (Total Quotes: 24)
Tonya Harding: [voice over] America. They want someone to love, but they want someone to hate, and the haters always say. “Tonya, tell the truth!” There’s no such thing as truth. I mean it’s bullsh*t! Everyone has their own truth. And life just does whatever the f**k it wants.
Tonya Harding: [voice over] I was the best figure skater in the world at one point in time.
[to young Tonya]
LaVona Golden: Call that a clean skate for Christ’s sakes.
Spectator: Do not swear in front of the kids.
LaVona Golden: I didn’t swear, you c*nt.
[to young Tonya]
LaVona Golden: Stop talking to her, that girl is your enemy.
[to Shawn; seeing Tonya skate]
Jeff Gillooly: Who’s that?
Tonya Harding: [voice over] Jeff was my first date ever. And my mom came.
LaVona Golden: You a gardener or a flower, John?
Tonya Harding: It’s Jeff.
LaVona Golden: In a relationship, there’s a flower and a gardener.
Jeff Gillooly: Um…
Tonya Harding: Don’t answer that.
Jeff Gillooly: I don’t know. I mean, I just thought…
LaVona Golden: I’m a gardener who wants to be a flower. How f**ked am I?
[referring to Tonya]
LaVona Golden: This one can’t garden to save her life. You’re going to have to do all the gardening there, fella.
Tonya Harding: Mom!
LaVona Golden: What?
[to Jeff and Tonya]
LaVona Golden: You two f**k yet?
Tonya Harding: You do dumb things when you’re young, like marrying Jeff.
LaVona Golden: You f**k dumb. You don’t marry dumb.
Bob Rawlinson: You need to see a wholesome American family.
Tonya Harding: I don’t have a wholesome America family.
LaVona Golden: [to Tonya] You skated like a graceless bull-dyke, I was embarrassed for you.
Tonya Harding: [voice over] My entire life I’ve been told I wouldn’t amount to anything. Well, you know what, maybe I would.
Tonya Harding: Nancy and I were friends, okay? We were roommates sometimes on the road. But the press wanted Nancy to be a princess and me to be a pile of crap to sell papers. I mean, what kind of frigging person bashes in their friend’s knee? Who would do that to a friend? This is bullsh*t.
[after being given a 4.8 score on her skating]
Tonya Harding: How do I get a fair shot here?
Judge: We also judge on presentation.
Tonya Harding: Suck my d*ck!
Shawn Eckhardt: [to Jeff] You’re going to need to even the playing field. I know a guy, I shouldn’t even be saying his name. Derek.
Tonya Harding: [voice over] The press wanted me to be the pile of crap.
[after shooting at Jeff]
Tonya Harding: I never did this.
Tonya Harding: What is going on?
Shawn Eckhardt: [to Jeff] They know something.
FBI Agent #2: We’re with the FBI.
FBI Agent #1: What can you tell us about Tonya Harding?
Shawn Eckhardt: I don’t know a Tony Harding.
FBI Agent #2: Aren’t you her bodyguard?
Tonya Harding: When I was a kid did you ever love me?
LaVona Golden: I made you a champion knowing you’d hate me for it. That’s the sacrifice a mother makes.
Tonya Harding: You cursed me.
Tonya Harding: I thought being famous was going to be fun. I was loved for a minute, then I was hated. Then I was just a punch line. It was like being abused all over again, only this time it was by you. All of you. You’re all my attackers, too.
Total Quotes: 24
What do you think of I, Tonya quotes? Let us know in the comments below as we’d love to know.
Tim Connelly (Wilmington, NC) says
I, Tonya is a fascinating account of Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly and the 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan. It isn’t always a pretty story and neither Tonya nor Jeff come out unscathed. But after a couple of hours of seeing their own words acted out by Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan – I feel like I understand both of them better.
Director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers managed to do the near impossible- turn two ugly punchlines back into real people. There’s not much point into going into too much detail on the story- we’re all pretty familiar with it and came into the theater wondering how the film would attempt to bridge the gap between a universally despised person and the need to make Tonya a sympathetic character.
The answer was in making (or showing) her mother to be a monster and to also show that right up until the Kerrigan attack – Tonya’s biggest crime was in simply not fitting into the figure skating world very well. She married poorly and in the process, became enveloped in a co-dependent relationship with her husband, who in time became her ex-husband.
The movie depicts Gillooly as saying that his confession wasn’t in planning the attack on Kerrigan but rather in planning to send out a death threat to her. His justification was that Tonya had received one and it obviously upset her concentration and focus – why not do the same thing to even the score and mess with Kerrigan’s concentration. Although this may or may not be true in being the full extent of their involvement- it is, at least possible. And although this is still completely unacceptable (and it does seem doubtful that he would pay $1000 for someone just to mail a letter), it seems as likely as what we’ve always thought.
Robbie is great and should definitely receive an Oscar nomination. She makes Harding more likable than she actually was but likability is overrated. You can be likable and still be a scoundrel. You can be unlikable and be a much better person than you’re given credit for.
I thought Sebastian Stan was outstanding as well. His later in life depiction of Gillooly gave him back his soul after he lost it during his beatings of Tonya. And Allison Janney will be adding a Best Supporting Actress Oscar to her Golden Globe for her amazing depiction of the evil mom.
It isn’t easy to make a great film when everybody knows how every event is going to flow. My hat is off to everybody associated with this film for getting every detail so right. The skating, the sense of not being good enough that just pours out of Robbie’s role as Harding, along with a wonderful score- it adds up a terrific movie that entertains without being predictable.
Everybody is a victim somewhere along the line. Kerrigan was victimized at a most inopportune time- right before the Olympic trials- and in such a horrific manner as to cause all of us to feel a deep sense of hurt and anger for what she was put through. It can’t be overstated how much trust Kerrigan lost after having such a terrible thing occur. But as the movie points out- life doesn’t happen in isolation and all the beatings and lack of support that led her to the day of the “incident” – these things influenced her life every bit as much. Harding’s victimization was mostly done behind closed doors and her hard, unsympathetic personality worked against her in a big way. She will not only get a big paycheck for this movie but many of us won’t think of her in quite the same ultra-negative way.
Michael Gawlik (Ann Arbor, MI) says
On first blush, I, Tonya appears to be a character study – and it is. With expert performances from Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, the film explores the at once tragic, moving, and darkly comical life of one of athletics’ most notorious figures. It shows Tonya Harding as something between a victim of circumstance and a brash, arrogant, young woman–a representation far more nuanced than the one that has existed in popular memory since the 1994 Olympics.
All of this character development serves a higher purpose: to offer commentary on the idea of truth as it is presented by popular media and accepted by those who consume said media. The film opens, with nods towards both documentary and mockumentary stylings, on a note informing audiences that it is a composite of exceptionally contradictory accounts given by the story’s players. Throughout, it toys with multiple and unreliable narrators, flashing between Harding’s accounts of domestic abuse and her husband, Jeff Gillooly’s, insistence on the mildness of his marital disputes. Never does the film hide the fact that this story, like all stories, is relative to the person telling it.
Through these multiple narratives, I, Tonya looks for an answer to the question with which viewers almost certainly approached the film: who is to blame for the attack on Nancy Kerrigan? As some narrators would tell it, blame should be levied on Harding’s mother, LaVona, for pushing her daughter to the competitive extremes that allow for the eventual events of the story to unfold. Others might blame Gillooly, for initiating the attack against Kerrigan by paying his dopey friend, Shawn Eckhardt, to send threatening letters to his (ex-) wife’s rival. Eckhardt himself certainly plays a role, for adding a simultaneously cruel and ridiculous twist to his plan that elevates the attack from psychological to physical. And, of course, the bozos that carry out the hit are far from inculpable.
As the film depicts it, Harding is the only character, who, amidst the thicket of contradictory accounts, remains essentially blameless for the attack on Kerrigan. Though she knew about the letters Gillooly intended to send, she was completely ignorant of the more sinister layers of “her” war against Kerrigan. And yet, as Harding reminds us at the end of the film, she is the one who takes on most of the blame from the public. While Gillooly eventually returns to normality, news vans departing from his home to look into the next scandal, Harding’s is the name that becomes, as she puts it, the punch line the public takes hold of. She becomes the villain that, as she herself recognizes, the American public needs to absolve its own guilt about staring with relish at scandal. Wrapped at the center of the story, with everything done for or around her, Harding is caught in the crossfire; there’s no way, the film tells audiences, that she could have escaped blame, regardless of how responsible or not she actually was.
That I, Tonya suggests Harding played a less blameworthy part in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan is not absolution or an unequivocal declaration of the figure skater’s innocence; instead, it is a counter narrative to the one that has long existed, an intellectual exercise in considering how the truth that the public accepts depends largely on the way a story is told. “This is the story of my life…and that’s the f**king truth,” Harding tells us at the film’s conclusion. Well, this, at least, is her truth; whether or not the public will accept it on as their truth is another matter entirely.
Tim Connelly says
Exception Review! I think you nailed it from start to finish.