I, Tonya Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney
  • Director: Craig Gillespie
  • Writer: Steven Rogers
  • Producers: Margot Robbie, Bryan Unkeless, Steven Rogers, Tom Ackerley
  • Film Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: March 13, 2018
  • Run Time: 119 minutes

        The strangest thing about I, Tonya is the way that the real Tonya Harding was central to promoting the film, especially since it is a satirical dark comedy that doesn’t have much positive to say about the former figure skater. Maybe this is ironic, but I think it actually speaks to a larger point that the film itself makes about Harding. She is so preoccupied with receiving more time in the spotlight that she is willing to do anything. In the film, we see this in her willingness to be an accomplice to an attack on her competition, and in real life we see it in her willingness to promote a film that shows her unwillingness to take responsibility for anything just because it gives her the fame and attention she desires.

        Although the central event of the film involves the scandalous attack on Harding’s fellow Olympic competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, there is a great deal of backstory before getting to that point. The narrative almost seems to justify Harding’s behavior by showing the alleged abuse she endured from both her mother (Allison Janney) and her husband, Jeff (Sebastian Stan). The abuse is alleged because the film makes clear from the very beginning that it is not based on facts. Instead, the screenplay is based on the recent interviews taken from the parties involved in the scandal, and makes entirely clear that they are contradictory. Believing everything Harding says in the film is about as reliable as the shifting stories that the skater has provided over the years, making the entire film something of a farce.

        Even in the seriousness of the film’s topics, including child and spousal abuse, the tone of the film stays comical, and this only works because of the filmmaker’s obvious skepticism over the validity of the facts being presented by Harding. For those who have suffered from abuse, this approach to the subject may come off as insensitive, but somehow it seems fitting for the circus that is Harding’s story. I, Tonya is a character study, but one that has very little respect for its subject, which is clear by the comedic tone used in approaching material which might have easily been turned into melodrama.

        Helping along the screenplay’s delicate balance between ridicule and sincere depiction of events are the performances in the film. While many of characters are almost cartoonish in their depiction, there is also an deep sense of empathy in the way the actors embody the roles. It is yet another way that I, Tonya is as contradictory as the versions of events contained within its narrative. At the center of the film is Margot Robbie as Harding, destined to be praised for her performance if only for the chameleon way her beauty was dulled to play the role. While there is certainly a fire to Robbie’s performance, there is also some inconsistency in her chosen dialect, which occasionally slips into more of a Southern accent (an odd choice considering Harding is from Oregon).

        Even though Robbie was the one celebrated for her performance early on, it was Allison Janney’s depiction of Tonya’s mother, LaVona, which ultimately garnered the film its only Academy Award. Janney has long been an award-winning television actress, and she transforms herself effortlessly into the role. Any doubts about her abilities in imitation will be put to rest with comparison footage at the end of the film. While it can be obnoxious to watch how often the Academy tends to award actors playing roles based on real people, there is no question that Janney deserved this win.

        The Blu-ray release of I, Tonya also comes with a DVD and a digital copy of the film. The special features on the discs include a handful of deleted scenes, as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette. The highlight of the extras, however, is a commentary track with director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, The Finest Hours).

Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10
Historical Significance:  8/10
Special Features: 7/10

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