I Finally Got to See 'I, Tonya': A Long Overdue Review

(Trailer NSFW: Language and hilarity)

First, an explanation. From the minute the first I, Tonya trailer dropped, I was fully prepared to sleep outside the theater and be the first one to grab a seat at premiere. The studio then took all that buzz and released the film … nowhere. It opened on December 8th and was shown in literally no theaters in Massachusetts. Believe me, I looked. In its opening weekend, the movie grossed like $350,000, which is about how much Rian Johnson pocketed just from Porg merchandise alone. (And those little shits didn’t move the plot along one iota, but that’s a discussion for another time.) So the most anticipated film about the most significant event in the history of the world’s greatest sport made it’s biggest fan wait a month before he was finally able to see it. Probably because we’re at the beginning of Awards Szn, they’ve finally started giving I, Tonya the distribution the public wanted all along.

But at long last, I have seen it. And simply put, it was worth the wait. Minimal spoilers ahead, and only because this is a true story anyway, so you should know this stuff already.

For starters, the performances are everything you’ve heard they are. Margot Robbie pulls a Charlize Theron-in-Monster-like transformation in that her acting is so spot-on, you forget she’s one of the hottest women walking the Earth. Like it’s impossible to process that this white trash, overly made up, frizzy-haired chain smoker is the same actress who did the “Mommy is sick and tired of wearing panties” scene. That suspension of disbelief is what great acting is all about. Likewise, Alison Janney is probably going to win every supporting actress award ever invented, and she deserves them.

But to me the guy who steals the movie is Paul Walter Hauser as Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly’s “bodyguard,” Shawn Eckardt. The “mastermind” behind the attack on Nancy Kerrigan who tells an interviewer he’s trained in counter-terrorism and counter-espionage. While living with his parents. That actual interview and some of the others in the movie are shown during the closing credits and hey bring home just how uncanny the performances in the movie are, given every character seems like a total exaggeration. But these were real people. This actually all happened.

Which is the best part of I, Tonya. The way it captures the insanity of probably the best sports scandal of all times. The oceans of TV trucks outside of everyone’s house. Reporters being stopped by a simple velvet rope on the front lawn. Hard Copy paying to have Tonya’s pickup truck towed just so they can get a reaction shot. Connie Chung anchoring the CBS Evening News every night from the rink at the shopping mall where Tonya had to practice. The best moments are when 4th wall is broken so the cast can tell you what really happened and what was made up, The Big Short-style. And the more they do, the more you realize the actual facts were funnier than the fiction. Plus it features the most hilarious side characters since Skinny Pete and Badger. Again, they were all real.

I could quibble with the accuracy of some of it, like Tonya skating to ZZ Top’s “Slip Inside My Sleeping Bag” about 25 years before they allowed skating music with lyrics. But I’m not That Guy. Instead I’ll say the skating was dead balls accurate. Right down to the costumes. And it does justice to the way that, while Tonya Harding was as graceful on the ice as Ogie Oglethorpe, she was an incredible athlete. The Triple Axel she was landing back in the early 90s – which has only been done since by Yuka Sato and even then never in competition – gets the treatment it deserves. As does her shitstorm personal life, which ultimately what the movie is all about.

My biggest concern going in was that the whole Nancy vs. Tonya scandal was too surreal and full of character too bizarre for any work of fiction to do it justice. I’m happy to report I was wrong.