Film – I, Tonya

Film – I, Tonya

Part biography, part comedy, I’m unclear if we’ve learnt the true Tonya Harding story from this. It matters not though, as I, Tonya is entertaining and enlightening.

Before the Nancy Kerrigan incident that finished her ice skating career, we see Tonya (Margot Robbie) growing up with a domineering, abusive mum (Allison Janney – everyone’s mum nowadays). She encouraged/forced Tonya to skate having seen her ability before she reached the ripe old age of four.

The film skirts back and forth from Tonya today, telling her back story with the documentary style returning in other parts of the film. The whole talking to camera thing is how we are directly told why Tonya puts up with her abusive husband; having grown up with it, that was the norm and something she felt she just has to put up with.

More than a demonstration of the American Dream of being able to be the best skater in the country no matter what poor circumstances she grew up in, the most important message this film brings is why someone put ups with domestic abuse. Because Tonya’s mother, never had a nice word to say about her or to her, she took it as read that her husband, supposedly the other person who loves her, will abuse her too.

Further to this, American ice skating doesn’t come out too well, as the governing body forces skaters to conform to the wholesome ideal. A smoking – at one point she puts out her cigarette with her boot blade – swearing, working class Tonya does not fit into that model. Her rivals wear outfits costing $1000s and while she sews hers herself.

When we get to one of the biggest scandals to hit the sporting world that sadly casts a shadow Harding’s achievements, I, Tonya depicts the skater as having nothing to do with her American skating rival Nancy Kerrigan having her legs bashed before the Olympics. It was all to do with her now ex-husband, or rather his fame-hungry crooked mate. Harding wanted to skate against Kerrigan, she was her nemesis and she wanted to beat her fair and square. Kerrigan recovered and got the silver, Harding came eighth.

Afterwards, Harding was banned for skating for life for seemingly having no part in the Kerrigan attack. An incredibly cruel and harsh punishment but the drive to be the best never left her;  while researching for this, I learn she went on to do boxing and even motor racing.




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