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I, Tonya

Margot Robbie plays Tonya Harding, the figure skater who first landed the triple axel in competition and who also landed in a lot of trouble for her role in breaking Nancy Kerrigan’s kneecap just before the Olympic games. Two things make this film stand out. The first is the very unconventional storytelling. It is a twist on the documentary, a bit like a mockumentary except the story is true, in which actors play roles of the real-life characters. It is also terribly funny. I have to give credit to the scriptwriters for finding a way to turn an incident that is so tragic into something along which we can laugh.  And, in spite of this, I still manage to come away feeling sorry for Harding and her life story that is as much about class differences as it is about striving for success. The second is the acting – Robbie and Alison Janney, who plays her ridiculously competitive and overbearing mother are sensational. Janney is an over-the-top version of Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest.” She is hilarious, and she brings to life the context of her daughter’s story and how Harding got to be the skater she was. Sebastian Stan, who plays her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and Paul Walter Hauser as her bumbling bodyguard Shawn Eckhart also give funny and unique performances. Big thumbs up from me for a film that is surprising regarding where it finds its humor and the actors who bring these characters to the screen. For me, everything worked. While I never caught myself thinking this was a story worth telling, as I watched it I wondered why it hadn’t been told sooner.

About Gary Burkholder

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