Dark comedy I, Tonya, opening in U.S. movie theatres on Friday, is based on the life of Harding (played by Margot Robbie) and the infamous 1994 attack on her Olympic rival Nancy Kerrigan. Or might not not have.
Janney plays Harding’s temperamental mother in the movie, LaVona Golden. Harding’s story is compelling enough not to need those meta tricks. Robbie asked during a recent joint interview with Janney at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, where “I, Tonya” screened.
Janney: LaVona, if anything, she believed in her daughter and knew that her daughter was the better skater and had nothing to do with – she shouldn’t have to have a fur coat to be a figure skater. She’s a righteous saboteur. Her very soul is desiccated. So much so that she can talk to us. There were even reports that she would perform in a special skating exhibition. (“She’s a soft 4”, LaVona replies.) It’s not long before little Tonya is kicking ass and placing in competitions while mom sucks down some whiskey on the sidelines, screaming at Tonya to work harder. Told from multiple, wildly contradictory perspectives, and allowing the viewer to piece together their own version of the “truth”, Rogers’ script nicely captures the chaos of Harding’s unconventional life, while Gillespie lands on the right energetic tone to properly relate her anarchic spirit. This is so exciting.’ Then I was like, ‘Oh sh**, I’ve got to do this now and get into the mind of her character.’ I had to try and work out how to justify what she does as a mother.
She’s a momager monster who wages psychological and physical warfare on her daughter in her zealous effort to turn her into a star. She wasn’t playing by those rules.
Harding was also known for her risk-taking music choices. And Robbie evokes – superbly – how trapped Tonya must have felt. Largely because neither seem to be out of reach for her character. But she also won’t ever let young Tonya rest, and often beats the crap out of her, drunk and spiteful towards the one innocent person in her life.
There sure is a lot of ugliness.
Stan had one gripe: “living with Gilloolly’s 90’s-era look: “[The] mustache was a tough one. But it’s what The Price of Gold does with Tonya’s interviews that makes the documentary unmissable.
April Wolfe (Village Voice): “Those expecting camp or catfights won’t find them in Gillespie’s movie, which instead offers thoughtful and somewhat objective critiques, plus much seriously dark humor that’ll elicit a lot of uncomfortable gasps of laughter – and invites you to ponder hard truths”.
The Olympics climax is heartbreaking.
One of those decisions was Jeff Gillooly, a local kid with whom Harding instantly fell in love.
She returned to the ice five years after the scandal in a made-for-TV event.
What’s so unusual about “I, Tonya” is that the film continues that tradition of mockery, but also clearly empathizes with Harding.
At that point, the Australian wasn’t familiar with Harding’s story, or that the most ridiculous plot points – like Kerrigan assailant Shane Stant crashing into a locked glass door – were drawn straight from real life.
The director, Craig Gillespie, whose “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007) was a very different but equally delicate balancing act, handles “I, Tonya” expertly, juggling shifting points of view and modulating tones and treating the more sordid aspects of Harding’s life-the domestic violence, notably-with no unnecessary judgments or exploitation.
You can judge how “I, Tonya” handles these scenes for yourself now, as the film was just released in NY, and will expand across the rest of the United States over the next few weeks. “Tonya!” on the Oscar’s red carpet.