Alongside some of its more highbrow Oscar contenders I expected I, Tonya to be a little lightweight and, whisper it, maybe one that’s really more for the ladies than the gents.
Not so. This movie has balls.
It tells the true life story. (Wait a minute, who says it’s true? Ed. Ah, good point Ed. the opening is heavily disclaimered regarding the truth and whose story is correct.)
It tells a multi-faceted rendering of the happenings that surrounded Tonya Harding’s rise from poor American trailer trash to, well, just managing American trailer trash, with a tilt at winning the Olympic figure skating Gold medal, as favourite, along the way.
It’s a rags to rags story in which poor Tonya has to suffer more than probably any global superstar ever before to make her claim for fame; ending instead in infamy.
Margot Robbie not only stars as the eponymous lead but produced the film and, in similar fashion to Charlize Theron in Monster, ditches her stunning good looks for hair, make up and wardrobe (train tracks and all) that makes her, frankly, a mess.
Her back story, brilliantly and hilariously told in pretty short order, deals with a life (allegedly) mired in terrible abuse; firstly from her disgusting ‘Skating Mom’ played brilliantly (and a cert for an Oscar) by Alison Janney (West Wing) and her equally disgusting young husband (Sebastian Stan). The opening scene, as a three year old skating prodigy being brought to her first skate class, is hysterical and sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
Somehow, despite this tram-smash of a life, Harding rises above it all and bulldozes her way through the middle-class American skating hierarchy into prime position thanks not only to her generally brilliant ability but, in particular, to her nailing the Triple Axel.
That’s when it all goes wrong.
You’ll know why, so I won’t bore you with the details. But suffice it to say the hapless events that follow are particularly well enacted by her ‘security’ Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser); reminding me of Four Lions.
Suffice it to say this movie is great. The acting is universally superb. The skating scenes are entirely convincing, the humour (black as the ace of spades) is laugh out loud time and again, and the way that Harding is dealt her cards, and the beatings she takes both physical and mental, are abhorrent and repulsive.
Robbie is a revelation in the role and has joined the Hollywood A list as a consequence. I can’t wait to see her in Mary Queen of Scots (alongside, count them, no fewer than eight other announced roles) and whilst she won’t beat Frances McDormand to the coveted Best Female Lead in March this performance has set a new bar for which she can only progress beyond.
Bravo. If I had a red rose I’d throw it on the ice right now.
(The soundtrack, all the best worst American MOR ever, is great too.)