I, Tonya (2017)


  • Directed by Craig Gillespie
  • Starring Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney
  • Written by Steven Rogers
  • Comedy, Biopic
  • Rated R
  • 2hr
  • 10 December 2017


Told in a mockumentary style, I, Tonya tells the story of infamous figure skater, Tonya Harding, known best for her involvement in the scandalous events preceding the 1994 Olympics, following her entire skating career from childhood to her lifetime banning in 1994.

How’s the Story?

I think that, since I’m a figure skating fan all my life, I went into this with a negative predisposition that made it difficult for me to really enjoy this story as well as I think it deserves. It’s a good story. And I’m always the first person to say that a movie doesn’t have to be accurate to be a good movie, yet I found myself struggling to connect with the story since it’s told from a perspective to inspire sympathy for Tonya Harding, which just isn’t possible for me really. The parts about all of the abuses she suffered were something I could sympathize with, but I kept this undercurrent of the less-dramatic version of “Cool story, still murder” that villains often get.

NOT to say she’s a villain or that anything was close to like a super villain murdering people, but that feeling, the ‘wow that’s so sad… but you still did a terrible thing’ feeling, it stuck with me so I struggled to sympathize the way I think most viewers might when they see this without being too well versed in the real story this is based off of.

However, IGNORING my bias, I have to say that overall, this is a very creative way to tell this story and I think it’s probably better than I like it.

How’s the Acting?

Margot Robbie is amazing in this movie. She’s just fantastic. Sebastian Stan was also really great in this one. I have to say that the performances in this movie were definitely, to me, the highlight of the whole thing.

That said, I’ve heard nothing but people being super into Allison Janney’s performance here, calling it worthy of a best supporting actress nomination, and I really can’t say I agree. Is she good? She’s okay. But this characters is very one-note and her performance doesn’t elevate that at all. I’m not sure if I can blame here for that, however, so more on that in the next section!

How’s the Writing/Directing?

This movie is very well written and directed except for how weirdly one-note Allison Janney’s character is. I don’t understand why it fell flat there, but it really did. I would say that it almost has to be a writing and direction element that made that happen, because she’s a good actor.

Overall, it’s a solid film with really smart dark humor that’s really hard to get right and this movie definitely does.

How’s the Cinematography?

The skating sequences in this film are fantastic! I was worried about that, because it’s so hard to get figure skating on film done right, but this one definitely pulls off some believable shots done super well. This is a particularly beautiful film in several other ways as well. There are so many scenes where the lighting is so spot on that I was sucked in by it. I am always a sucker for well-done lighting and this really, really nails it in so many places.

Is It Worth Watching?

While I struggled to love this movie, I have to say I did like it. It’s very entertaining and has a lot of great dark humor, but at times the violence is over the top – though this is the point – and it takes me out of the story a bit, and I’m naturally disinclined to like this particular telling of an event because it is told in a way that aims to make the viewer sympathize with someone I can only see as a terrible cheater who deserved her lifetime ban.

I’m almost certain that if you aren’t as familiar with Tonya Harding you’ll love this movie, but I just couldn’t put that aside while viewing this one. I’m going to try to watch this one again once it’s available on streaming, because I want to like it better than I do, but currently, I would say I like it alright.

My Rating: 6/10


About J. Chelsea Williford

Movie addict, reader, writer, pop culture lover.
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