Abuse begets more abuse, and abused victims sometimes (often?) seek out fresh replacement abusers. And so Tonya Harding‘s bitter, chain-smoking mom, Lavona, beat and belittled her daughter from age of 7 onward, and as teenaged and then 20-something Tonya ascended in the figure-skating realm she became a ferociously angry abuser herself with a huge chip on her shoulder…what else?
Tonya married and then separated from an abusive, moustache-wearing asshole, Jeff Gillooly, who conspired to have Harding’s skating rival Nancy Kerrigan temporarily disabled with a police-baton blow to the knee, and with many presuming, fairly or unfairly, that Harding was aware of Gillooly’s plan and was more or less down with it.
Most of us are up to speed on Harding‘s sad life and the pathetic tabloid calamity of the Kerrigan conspiracy.
Craig Gillespie‘s I, Tonya, an exaggerated, pugilistic black farce that some are calling grimly comedic, is all about the Harding catastrophe, and it’s definitely the Toronto Film Festival movie to see and get walloped by right now.
I, Tonya press-screened this morning at 10:45 am. Well, actually 11:05 am because it took so long to get everyone in. I was there and dealt with the long, horrible, hope-crushing line that stretched east along Richmond and south down John Street. I saw it and I ate it, suffering the blows and bruises and the eye-popping realization that I, Tonya currently has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
The cool kidz love it, but I’m telling you that unless you have a strange liking for the company of losers, abusers and total dipshits, you’ll definitely want to steer clear of this cesspool exercise. It lasts 119 minutes, and it feels, trust me, like 139 or 149.
When it ended I turned to the guy next to me and said, “How long was that?” “Two hours,” he said. “Good God,” I replied.
Am I the only honest, straight-shooting journo-critic in Toronto right now? I, Tonya is cinematic abuse, pure and simple. It’s an ugly pill from hell — a violent, vulgar, relentlessly profane assembly of lower-middle-class white-trash types beating on each other and smoking and swearing and losing their tempers and causing cuts and swellings. It’s a tacky portrait of American self-loathers, brawlers, grotesques, hungry-for-famers, human garbage, etc.
I tweeted the following just after 1 pm today: “I, Tonya is an ugly, abusive, lower-class tale about a demimonde of ugly, abusive, lower-class people. A movie full of rage and resentment. A toilet-bowl downswirl of wretched, lower-middle-class misery.
It’s not “funny”, not amusing, not likable and it makes us watch too many damn cigarettes being smoked by Allison Janey, who plays Livona in what may turn out to be a performance that will attract some Best Supporting Actress heat…who knows?
How good is Margot Robbie as Tonya? Very. She’s thrown herself into the rage and doubled down like a champ, and has created a performance that at least aspires to the mixture of anger and furious commitment that propelled Robert De Niro‘s performance in Raging Bull, but without putting on 30 pounds. Robbie has definitely upped her stock as an actress who doesn’t back off from tough, scrappy material.
Remember Hard Copy? If you were a regular watcher of that icky tabloid news show (’89 to ’99), you’ll probably enjoy I, Tonya. Ditto people who watch American Idol and go to karaoke bars and live in heavily mortgaged homes and trailer parks…a perfect vulgar wallow to sit through and snigger at as you chow down on onion rings and slurp soda.