On the whole, I try my best to stay away from drama movies. The reason? Simple. I feel like my day-to-day life contains way more drama than I prefer, so why would I seek out drama for the sake of entertainment? The types of movies and TV that I enjoy the most are those that allow me to escape from reality for one or two hours at a time. Occasionally, I’ll take in a comedy-drama like Lady Bird, but straight-up dramas don’t appeal to me all that much.
I think the last drama I sought out to watch was Fruitvale Station. It was poignant, sad and–well, dramatic, and even though I didn’t necessarily like what was going on in the film, I thought it was a good movie. (Four and a half out of five stars, btw.) Dramas that are even tougher for me to watch are those that are “based on actual events.” Fruitvale Station and 2017’s I, Tonya fall into this category. Some are describing I, Tonya as a “black comedy,” with most of the funny moments coming from just how messed-up this woman’s life story is.
Tonya Harding was an Olympic-level figure skater who had pretty much everything going against her: She was from Portland (sorry, Portland); she wasn’t from a rich family; she didn’t have the poise and polish that puts the judges at ease; she had terrible taste in men; and her mother was an absolute wide-awake nightmare.
Lavona Golden, played to grotesque perfection by the amazing Allison Janney (I love, love, love AJ. She can even pull off playing a freakin’ starfish), also lacked even the tiniest shred of class and tact, whether dealing with other parents, Tonya’s manager, and Tonya herself. It’s shown early in the film that Tonya is every bit a “daddy’s little girl,” and when Daddy is kicked out of the house, Tonya becomes the full-time target of her mother’s verbal and physical abuse. And Lavona lets Tonya have it with both barrels (and a kitchen knife). It appeared that Lavona’s desire to see Tonya become a world-class skater came from some good place in her cold, black heart, but her methods definitely redefined the term “tough love.”
Lavona was definitely right about one thing: Tonya ended up marrying the first idiot who told her she was pretty, namely one Jeff Gillooly. Tonya was looking for the affection she couldn’t find with her mother, and her relationship with Jeff was toxic almost from the very start. Because of Tonya’s acerbic mother, and her idiot husband and his idiot friends, it’s truly amazing that she managed to get as far as she did in the world of figure skating.
Of course, the movie covers “the incident” in great detail. The idiots supporting Tonya were responsible for all the skulduggery, while all Tonya wanted to do was skate. I felt awful as I watched Tonya pleading with the judge not to ban her from professional skating for life. The film ends with Tonya taking yet another punch, this one from her competitor in a boxing ring. Boxing was just one of the many jobs she had after her skating career. Of those, I enjoyed watching her and the many other notorious celebs who commented on other idiots on TruTV’s World’s Dumbest.
Back to the film: Artistically speaking, I thought it was excellent. Allison Janney was brilliant as is her usual, and Margot Robbie proved with this role that she can play characters more substantial than a floozy or a bat-wielding trampy psychopath. She acted the hell out of that role. The directing was okay; I personally didn’t care for the breaking of the fourth wall, when characters would narrate their own reenactments right to the camera. It was done mostly for comedic effect, but it just seemed out of place in a movie based on actual events.
I, Tonya earns a comedically-dramatic four out of five stars from me.