2017, Movies

I, Tonya (2017, Craig Gillespie)

This is a very funny faux documentary about Tonya Harding’s skating career and her relationship with her ex-husband. The cast is excellent as is the sense of time and place. And though some minor dramatic license is taken this is entirely by design, which is worth thinking about giving the uproar this film caused.

So this is a very funny movie. It’s also occasionally hard to watch, as the film depicts a lot of abuse, but it is very funny. There are two ways you can handle relationships like this and humour can be an effective method when done well. It’s done well here and the black comedy is a way of coping with what is pretty awful otherwise.

The cast is excellent – everyone is stellar but Hauser is my favourite, especially given that his role is the most ridiculous. Yes, everyone is a little ridiculous and if they weren’t real people we’d probably find the acting over-the-top. But they all feel sincere and I think the film succeeds in great part due to the actors.

There is a also a great sense of time and place: the clothing is very much of the era as is the hair. They lean into it, which I guess you could criticize them for, but this is a comedy at bottom. The music is mostly not of the era but that appears like a deliberate choice to emphasize how out of place Harding felt in a world what didn’t want to accept her.

The film does a good job of conveying ambiguity of what happened without slamming you in the face with it. I don’t quite understand the criticism that this film glorifies Harding or somehow claims that she is more sympathetic than Kerrigan. Harding is a victim of abuse but she’s also an asshole. And the film is pretty clear that her version of what happened is just a version of what happened. (And her claim that she was abused by the media is just a claim.) If you come away from this movie believing that Harding is some kind of hero, that’s on you.

Anyway, this is pretty damn entertaining.


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