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I, Tonya

One of the worst human traits is envy. Envy at what others have is a notion that has started life-long feuds, wars and death. It’s not a likeable emotion to have but sadly rules certain people’s lives until their death. ‘I, Tonya’ explores how envy can go spectacularly wrong. Based on true events which made world headlines, it’s a cautionary tale in envy getting out of control. It’s a well-made film with performances highlighting the pitfalls of envy in all its ugliness.

Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) is a figure skater who has participated in the sport her whole life. Aiming for Olympic medals and being the best in her field, her ambition knows no limits. Married to Jeff (Sebastian Stan), Tonya has long tried to move from under the shadow of her controlling mother Fay (Allison Janney). When Tonya’s fiercest skating rival Nancy Kerrigan looks set to win an important contest those closest to Tonya take it upon themselves to change the outcome. Their actions unleash hell upon Tonya’s life with scandal and deception overtaking her stormy life.

‘I, Tonya’ is often unbearable viewing due to its vile, grotesque characters. That’s what makes is so compelling with the trashy, soap opera style narrative demanding attention from the first frame. ‘I, Tonya’ doesn’t shy away from the fact that it depicts a group of white trash people desperate to achieve anything at any cost. Whether it’s by deception, violence and the worshipping of greed, Tonya and her bizarre family and friends know no limits.

Thankfully the script doesn’t make Tonya Harding look like an innocent caught up in a quagmire. Her flaws and those of her husband and mother are gleefully and painfully shown. The acting is top notch with Robbie and Janney delivering powerhouse performances. Craig Gillespie directs in an almost documentary style which achieves the gritty authenticity for which he strives. The era of the 80s & 90s never looked to tacky with the skating sequences just as breath-taking as the ghastly actions of all involved.

‘I, Tonya’ won’t make you instantly love Tonya Harding. That’s why it works in exploring envy and infamy in honest and kitsch detail. But by the end you understand why things happened and Harding’s feelings towards her loved ones. Recent movie biographies haven’t been as trashy as this one, with ‘I, Tonya’ being a flashy ode to a slice of history taste definitely forgot.

Rating out of 10: 8

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