The Reducer

I, Tonya: Oscar Film An Entertaining If Tonally Jarring Experience

I, Tonya: Oscar Film An Entertaining If Tonally Jarring Experience

As the Oscar buzz heats up one of the films in with a shout of winning big is sports biopic I, Tonya. The film details the life of Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding played by Margot Robbie, and opens in Irish cinemas this Friday.

In January 1994, Harding became involved in controversy when her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, orchestrated an attack on fellow US Olympian Nancy Kerrigan, this incident forming the crux of the Craig Gillespie directed picture.

The film starts with Harding as a child, coming from a lower class background, trying to enter the prestigious world of figure skating under the tutelage of her foul mouthed mother, played by the always entertaining Allison Janney.

The narrative builds depicting Harding's troubled relationship her mother and the abusive Jeff Gillooly as well as her progression as a figure skater, being the first woman to perform a triple axel in competition.

Things then start to go sour with the assault of Nancy Kerrigan, which both Harding and Gillooly end up taking the rap for.

The movie is a slick affair, the 70's soundtrack, heightened performances and mockumentary style comedy often take away from what is a darkly tragic story.


The script is heavy with documentary style vox pops, and often invoke the unreliable narrator trope. Gilooly denies being abusive to Harding and Harding denies involvement in the attack on her Olympic rival, the technique trivialises the events to the detriment of the story.

The movie is held aloft by the performances of Robbie and Janney their Oscar nominations are deserved, yet the overall tone of the film does not suit the source material. Harding was in an abusive relationship with both her mother and husband and while the movie is billed as a black comedy, the story dictated that Gillespie should have reeled in the jokes.

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Eoin Lyons

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