As I previously stated in my review for Ichi the Killer, the film I, Tonya (directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Steven Rogers) is not for the faint-hearted, either. This film contains perhaps the most mother-on-child and spouse-on-spouse violence I have ever seen in a film. Contradictory to that exact statement, though, I, Tonya is also one of the funniest films I have seen this year. Surprising? Just wait, because the fact that these two things work, nevertheless coexist within the narrative of this deeply black comedy is nothing short of impressive, and the best work of almost everybody involved in this production.
The most impressive of these multiple career peaks come entirely from the actors. More specifically, Margot Robbie (who stars as figure skating phenom Tonya Harding), Allison Janney (who plays Harding’s mother), and Sebastian Stan (who plays her first husband Jeff Gillooly), who all give performances worthy of nominations in the awards season this film is diving into. The Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress races for the 90th Academy Awards just got a lot more interesting, as I previously stated that Laurie Metcalf was a shoe-in for her work (also, coincidentally, as a mother) in Lady Bird, but for me, it is now a toss-up between her and Janney, who plays perhaps the worst parent in film history. She also gets a majority of the best jokes in the film, and she delivers those lines with such disdain and arrogance that it is truly commendable.
On the contrary, I believe Margot Robbie will almost certainly win the statue for Best Actress. Her performance runs the gamut of Oscar-winning performances. Incredible physicality, emotional depth, comedic timing, great stunt-work, and even a bit of breaking the fourth wall. Robbie’s performance as the tragic “punchline” (as Hardy puts it in the film) is nothing short of what will most certainly be Robbie’s best work for many years to come, if she ever surpasses the performance she brought to life here.
I do have a couple problems with the film, though, and they include the acting and directing. At the very beginning of the film (the first half hour, probably), both Robbie and Stan play high schoolers, and it is not believable for a second. The two simply look too old, and no amount of make-up will change that. This does not last long at all, though, as the film quickly moves on from these scenes to get to the more interesting aspects of Hardy’s career.
To address my problem with the directing, we move to the end of the film. I felt that, at one point, the film had a natural ending point, where one would usually cut to a “where are they now? segment. But, after this point, the film continues for at least another twenty-five minutes. The film does earn this screentime eventually, but until that point, I was somewhat disappointed that the film was too long. The truth is, though, that the film does not know what it wants its climax to be, and instead opts for two climaxes in the narrative, and one definitely takes the wind out of the sail from the other. I will let you decide which one is the stronger of the two when you see I, Tonya, which will most certainly be talked about as the awards season becomes more crowded. If all goes the way I think it will, though, this film will most definitely be one of the film’s most awarded come early next year. In short, do not miss I, Tonya, especially if you enjoy the fleeting genre of the black comedy, of which this is perhaps the best example in years.