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Surreal and powerful Tonya Harding biopic is a great ride

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When a movie starts with a disclaimer that it’s based on the “wildly contradictory” interviews given by its main characters, you know you’re in for something different.

What you don’t expect is the wild ride I, Tonya will take you on.

Telling the Tonya Harding side of the infamous 1994 Olympic attack on teammate Nancy Kerrigan, I, Tonya will have you questioning everything you thought you knew about the incident.

From Tonya’s childhood, which is as horrific as it is heartbreaking, through her marriage to Jeff Gillooly, who became as abusive as her mother, to the incredible prejudice she faced in the sport for being poor ‘white trash’ — the film blew my mind open.

Harding’s mother, LaVona Golden (played by Allison Janney in a role that has already won her Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards and likely an Oscar this March) is portrayed as just about the meanest woman you’ve ever met, who hated her daughter from birth and viewed her as a burden and hindrance to keeping a man.

Harding’s ex-husband was a jealous little man who routinely tried to shoot her. Other than a coach who was sometimes in the picture, those two cretins were Harding’s support system.

Of course, what everyone wants to know is if the movie makes it clear one way or another whether Harding knew what was going to happen, or was a part of it in any way.

The movie definitely has a point of view and doesn’t shy away from it. Director Craig Gillespie makes a compelling case for Tonya as victim. Did she know what was going to happen to Kerrigan?  She doesn’t admit it, but she isn’t completely innocent either.

My guess? She didn’t know the specifics of what was going to happen but knew or had reason to know “something” would.  Was that enough to ban her from any involvement in professional skating for a lifetime? I, Vicky do not know.

Margot Robbie as Tanya is a revelation in a film she also helped produce — raw, tough and vulnerable all in one breath. It is without question the best performance of her career and makes me excited to see what she will do next.

Alison Janney is pitch perfect in her portrayal of a character so crazy you have to see it to believe it. Sebastian Stan and Paul Hauser are perfection as the duo of idiots leading the plan.

It’s a serious film, and heartbreaking, and darkly funny and completely surreal all at the same time. I’m not sure there’s a film I’ve enjoyed more recently, at least on a critical level.

It is a nearly perfect portrayal of a completely crazy true story and is worthy of both the accolades it’s getting and the pleasure of your presence at the theatre.

Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia

 

 

 

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