Review: I Tonya is a tragi-comedy with excellent acting performances

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I Tonya

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I Tonya - Credit: Archant

This Oscar nominated picture tells the story of controversial American figure skater Tonya Harding who was accused of conspiring to attack one of her rivals during the build up to the 1994 olympics.

Australian actress Margot Robbie takes on the lead role in a film which focuses on Harding’s tough upbringing and the events which led up to the infamous incident.

Directed by Australian Craig Gillespie, the film tells its story from a variety of contrasting and sometimes unreliable viewpoints, as each of the main players is interviewed about their differing version of events.

As original as it is, this only really succeeds in giving the film a slightly confused and disjointed narrative.

The acting performances however are outstanding.

Robbie enhances her reputation further with a beguiling performance as the talented ice skater, sneered at by the establishment for her trailer trash roots. While Sebastian Stan shows there is more to his repertoire than the stoic superhero he plays in the Marvel series, with an engaging portrayal of Tonya’s sleazy husband Jeff Gillooly.

It is Allison Janney however who has rightfully garnered the most praise for her show stealing turn as Tonya’s stoney-faced mother.

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Playing a woman without a maternal bone in her body and with the sharpest of tongues, the Boston born actress is virtually unrecognisable in a near faultless performance which won her a best supporting actress Oscar at this year’s academy awards.

I, Tonya is darkly funny in places but it would be stretching things to call it a comedy. As the talented young Harding’s fledgling career is destroyed, the film becomes more of a tragedy than anything else.

Scenes of domestic violence sit awkwardly with the more comedic elements, giving the film a rather uneven tone and the film’s unlikeable characters make it very difficult to connect with any of them.

As a film, I’ Tonya doesn’t quite live up to the standards of the excellent acting performances but is undeniably watchable and sheds new light on an infamous and sometimes misunderstood moment in sporting history.