I, TONYA (2017) movie review

Irreverent, unkempt, and more driven than most. That was Tonya Harding at age 4. And she never really changed.

She was born into a house of torturous verbal abuse and didn’t escape it until her career was over. She tried to change her situation by getting married young but soon found the same life waiting for her, and daily renderings quickly became physical torment.Constant punishment pushed commitment to her craft and broke her down before she had to face her most brutal critics of all: the pristine and cold world class figure skating judges and the media.Skating was her whole life, and she was good. She was arguably even the best. She just didn’t look or sound the part. She didn’t play along. She didn’t represent the code of unwritten expectations held by the world for figure skaters. She was poor and her own other-side-of-the-tracks culture oozed from every whispered profanity, every misplaced hand-stitched sequin, every outlandish song or dance move landing in pose in the center of the ice.She was still the only one who could land a triple axle jump. She did it over and over again. She skated all day, every day. It became her identity, even as her oppressors continued to beat her down.This is I, Tonya. Unabashed, unfettered, and…told from every perspective. It begins in interview mode, the audience in television viewer seats just as they were during the 1994 Olympics when it all went down.

We all remember the incident. We all heard different stories. As I walked into this movie, I was sure that Tonya herself had slammed her opponents legs with a crowbar nearly crippling her. I guess I wasn’t alone.What this film does is beg you to check your sources and get all of the facts before making judgments. It demands empathy from the voyeuristic world awaiting the next failure from anyone in the limelight who fall victim. They become the prey to viewers, the new tormentors, doling out violence and cruel words from box seats hoping for those working hardest to fall.Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, and Sebastian Stan certainly become these living losers. One of the best scenes is Margo puting make-up on in a mirror, fighting tears and trying to smile. She doesn’t cry through her sad, overwhelmingly abusive life. She takes the abuse like she would any physical obstacle and fights harder to win. So, when she finally sits alone before one of her final performances and looses it, we see it all over her face and in her eyes. Her life’s pursuit was approval from a world that was never going to accept her at all.

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