Looking Back at 2010s Films: I, Tonya (2017)

8 Oct

Image result for i tonya movie

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films, there’s a moment late in the film that shows why Margot Robbie was cast as Harley Quinn as “Suicide Squad.”

It’s a moment late in “I, Tonya.” Everyone’s harping on her. She’s dealing with a great deal of stress. Very few people are on her side. She has to go out there on the ice again and impress the judges again. Did I mention she’s Tonya Harding?

Yep, it’s the film that makes the harsh statement that we are all in fact terrible people. I mean…we just suck. No question about it.

The film didn’t even need to necessarily take sides in the whole Nancy Kerrigan scandal to make that assessment. That’s because it doesn’t even go on record saying “THIS IS REAL; THIS REALLY HAPPENED.” Instead, it uses the clever technique of crafting the story based on interviews/testimonials not from Nancy Kerrigan or anyone who followed her but from Tonya Harding and everyone who followed HER. There is evidence that implicated Tonya criminally, and other people have criticized her actions. We could’ve gotten a film from Nancy’s perspective. But Nancy’s barely even a character, so what we have with “I, Tonya” is a different perspective that may or may not be true…especially because many characters saw things differently!

It’s like “Rashomon,” with the many different perspectives of an incident contradicting each other, except we never even hear from the supposed victim of said-incident! A strange method, but intriguing nonetheless.

I love biopics that use different techniques to take creative liberties with “true” stories. Some other brave ones that came out in the past few years were “The Big Short” and “Vice.” But my favorite is “I, Tonya”, mostly because…I just think it’s smarter and funnier.

Here’s where the film first grabbed me. We start off with “irony-free” interviews of Tonya (Margot Robbie), her husband (Sebastian Stan), her mother (Allison Janney), her coach (Julianne Nicholson), her husband’s friend/”bodyguard” (Paul Walter Hauser), and…the reporter (Bobby Cannavale). The reporter’s opening line is GREAT: “I was a reporter for ‘Hard Copy,’ a pretty crappy show that legitimate news outlets looked down on…and then became.” Bravo, movie! BRAVO! I was hooked from that moment forward.

And he’s right too. When the Incident happened, everyone was obsessed with it, and so, when tabloids and “crappy” news outlets like “Hard Copy” covered it heavily, everyone was looking to them for “the truth.” That’s when they started to be taken “seriously,” and nowadays, it’s a common popular thing, especially now that the Internet has grown significantly since then.

This film pretty much tells us that truth is in the eye of the beholder and we’re all just going to believe what we want to believe, even if we harp on people to further our own points of view.

How much of “I, Tonya” is accurate?? I don’t know! But it’s interesting to think about, isn’t it?

The writing is brilliant, the directing from Craig Gillespie (who also directed “Lars and the Real Girl” and “Fright Night”) is top-notch, the editing (which was nominated for an Oscar) is very clever as it goes from one point to the next just as we’re wondering what it might be, and of course, the acting is excellent. Margot Robbie is chillingly good as Tonya, and Allison Janney…wow. I mean, Janney is always great in funny, endearing supporting roles, but here, she gave herself the challenge of making this character of Tonya’s coldhearted, foul-mouthed mother as unlikable as possible. And for that, she deserved the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

And I also really liked Paul Walter Hauser as the burly, delusional “bodyguard” who promises to “take [Nancy] out.” Again, who knows how this really went down? But HE claims he masterminded the attack…DID he? It’s so easy to fact-check and debunk his stories.

See? This movie raises questions, provokes thought, gives insights, blah blah blah…and we don’t know how much of it is factual! In the end, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is this most important question…why wasn’t this nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars??

(OK, obviously, there are more important questions to ask about it, but I’m trying to be funny here.)

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