I, Tonya Reviewed by Clayton Barnett

The Premise
Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.

The Review
One of sport’s most sensational scandals hits the big screen, this treatment of Tonya Harding’s tragic story is a jaw-dropping joy to watch. I was barely a teenager in the early 90’s and boy even down here in New Zealand we knew everything about Tonya Harding. Even if you know the story this movie is something else.

Hell, some of it’s so crazy you think they must have embellished the truth, but over the closing credits they have interview clips with the real-life figures - and the films characters are no exaggeration, they were that stupid.

Kudos to Aussie director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), who I wonder if compatriot and producer Margot Robbie handpicked to helm this darkly funny flick. His assured direction would have repaid her faith after a few by-the-number efforts like The Finest Hours, Million Dollar Arm.

He’s filled the film with wild swinging tracking shots, crack up 4th wall breaking lines to camera, breathless ice skating routines and some emotional heft that’ll whack you like an extendable baton. It’s a relentless energy worthy of Tonya Harding herself.
What performances too. Margot Robbie earns her Best Actor Oscar nom and shouldn’t be overshadowed by Allison Janney. Though it’s hard to believe her for a 15-year-old tearaway, she’s a captivating watch as she rises as a cocky foul-mouthed red-neck to her fall from grace.

But it’s Janney who’ll walk away with the little gold man, because she just gets totally lost in the role it’s scary. She’ll have to thank screenwriter and longtime friend Steven Rogers who wrote the part for her, she gets so many of the movies best – and unprintable - lines. And you’ll be in stitches from the hilariously dead-pan Paul Walter Hauser as Tonya’s dim-witted bodyguard – and ‘counter-terrorism expert’ – Shawn.

If anyone deserves a gold medal it’s the people behind the ear-candy soundtrack. This movie has shades of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and has a similar era-defining playlist featuring En Vogue, Supertramp, ZZ Top, Dire Straits and the second epic use of Fleetwood Mac’s Chains in the final act after last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2.

The Verdict
As sweet it is to watch Tonya land a triple-axel, it’s a thrill to watch the team behind I, Tonya land such a gripping black comedy. Assured direction, captivating performances and a relentless energy that just doesn’t let up.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 25th January 2018
Rating: R16 – Contains domestic violence, sexual violence, sex scenes & offensive language
Duration: 120 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Mckenna Grace
Director: Craig Gillespie (The Finest Hours)

The Extras
Although a member of an amateur ice hockey league, Margot Robbie didn't have that much skating experience before taking on the role of Tonya Harding.

Allison Janney had seriously trained to become a figure skater throughout her childhood and adolescence. However, when she was 17, she accidentally walked into a sliding glass door and gravely injured her right leg. In 2014, during an interview on "Fresh Air," Janney told interviewer Terry Gross that her leg came close to being amputated. "I lost like three-quarters of my blood. I lost an artery and cut tendon... I was in the hospital for like seven to eight weeks. I missed my first year of college. You know, and after that, of course, I didn't really--I didn't skate for a very long time."

Not being a 'bird' person in particular, Allison Janney had some difficulty adapting to having one perched on her shoulder for so many of her scenes, so the production had to 'audition' three different birds before settling on one they nicknamed "Little Man," the least hyperactive of the lot.

To prevent damaging her hair, Margot Robbie wears wigs as Tonya Harding. Surprisingly, the hair team used beer to achieve the "crunchy" permed look when regular hair products didn't produce the desired result.

Although Margot Robbie trained for the role, she wouldn't be able to do Tonya's triple axel as very few people in the world are able to and at least two of them were training for the Olympics. The choreography was done and the scenes were completed with the help of visual effects and CGI.

Steven Rogers' script was featured on the 2016 Black List of the most-liked scripts of the year.

'First runner-up' at the 'People's Choice Award' of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

Margot Robbie trained with choreographer Sarah Kawahara for the role.

Nancy Kerrigan stated in interviews relating to her Dancing with the Stars (2005) appearance that she wouldn't be seeing the movie despite not knowing how much of it would feature her, saying "I already lived through that."

Writer Steven Rogers, a long-time friend of Allison Janney, wrote the role of LaVona Golden with Janney in mind. He'd written several roles for Janney in the past, but other actresses ended up getting those parts. She later thanked Rogers in her acceptance speech for the Best Supporting Actress award at the 75th Golden Globes for convincing her to take the part.

Sarah Kawahara choreographed Nancy Kerrigan, the ice skater Tonya Harding's ex-husband attacked. Kawahara also helped Robbie train for her role.

Margot Robbie is five inches taller than Tonya Harding.

Wrapped filming on March 10, 2017 according to Margot Robbie's Instagram account.

Margot Robbie took several of the scrunchies used throughout filming.


This film breaks the fourth wall.