by Martin Hafer
Tonight I went to the opening night film at the Philadelphia Film Festival and it turned out to be I, Tonya. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about this, as I really didn’t care much about seeing a biopic about Tonya Harding. In hindsight, I am glad I saw it as the film was exceptionally well directed and the acting was occasionally brilliant. In particular, Australian actress Margot Robbie was simply amazing as Harding—turning in the sort of performance that could mean an Oscar nomination. Likewise, Allison Janney was amazing as well…playing Tonya’s incredibly despicable mother. You really have to respect the great job both of them did in the film…as well as Robbie’s learning to skate well in order to make this movie.
The film is about the life of Tonya Harding….yes, THAT Tonya Harding…the one who gained infamy for her part in the attack on rival ice skater Nancy Kerrigan back in 1994. My daughter was only a small child at the time of the attack and I told her nothing about Harding because I wanted to see her perspective on the story. Both of us left very impressed.
However, I must put in a warning about the film. It is very violent….filled with intense and very realistic domestic violence…among the most realistic I have ever seen. With my background as a psychotherapist, this churned up a lot of memories for me and the film often had me in tears. If you have been a victim of domestic violence, then I strongly urge you to think twice before you see the picture…or at least see it with someone you love. Seeing Tonya being slugged, slapped and even shot was tough to watch. Interestingly, often the audience responded by laughing…an inappropriate but thoroughly understandable coping mechanism for such ugliness.
Does the film excuse Harding’s behaviors or paint her out to be a victim? Not really…and if it had, the film would have been a waste of time. What it does do is help you at least understand who she was and why she did what she did…as she was more than just an intense competitor who didn’t come forward when she learned her husband and his friend had physically assaulted Tonya’s competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. Overall, a fascinating look back to one of the most celebrated news stories of the 1990s….one that folks who are old fogies, like me, well remember!
Martin's Grade: A-Share: