I really enjoyed this film, which is an interesting character study of Tonya Harding and the unbelievably-stressful and abusive childhood from whence she came. It has an excellent ensemble cast, especially Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, who both give AAW performances.
Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) and Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) were ice skating rivals. In 1994, a few weeks prior to the US Figure Skating Championship in Detroit, Nancy was struck in the knee by an unknown assailant. Tonya’s husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), and her body guard, Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser), were eventually found guilty. Tonya was suspected to be in on the diabolical plot, too. Tonya became a pariah, whose reputation and career were irrevocably ruined because of the “incident.”
When Tonya was a young girl, she was quintessential “poor white trash,” but she loved to ice skate. Her mother, Lavona Golden (Allison Janney), found a way to get her a top-notch coach, Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson), because Tonya was unbelievably athletic and talented. (She was the first female ice skater to land a Triple Axel in competition. No other woman at the time would even attempt it!) The ice skating establishment wouldn’t judge her fairly because of her socio-economic status and unconventional choreography. The judges consistently gave her much lower marks than she deserved.
Lavona was unrelentingly critical, as well as verbally and physically abusive. Tonya’s father couldn’t stand Lavona and abandoned Tonya soon after she took up skating. In order to escape her mother, Tonya married the first man who she ever dated (Jeff Gillooly), who turned out to be as abusive as her mother!
Steven Rogers has written an excellent screenplay that portrays Tonya in a compassionate and sympathetic light, which she deserves. Considering her childhood, it’s amazing she didn’t become psychotic. She must have had incredible inner strength and resolve. The script is quite funny at times, since Tonya was surrounded by idiots! Although we will never know for sure, it appears Tonya was probably clueless about the plot to injure Nancy.
Director Craig Gillespie gets terrific performances out of all the leads. Margot is made to look as much like Tonya as possible, so she doesn’t look as beautiful as usual, but her wonderful figure can’t be hidden, and it’s a pleasure (at least for me) seeing her jump and skate on the ice in a short skirt.
I had contempt for Tonya when the incident occurred, but now I really admire her. She deserved a much better fate. At the next winter Olympics, I hope someone hires her to do color commentary, but it’s extremely unlikely that this will ever happen. Maybe I’ll start a “Free Tonya” campaign!