Adapting an incredibly famous event as a film is extremely hard, as you have to try and add a new perspective to the story that the audience hasn’t already formulated. Such was the case with the successful series American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson, which pulled it off spectacularly, becoming one of the most talked about series the past year. As for film, the subject of Tonya Harding and her potential sabotaging of her competitor Nancy Kerrigan are adapted in I, Tonya.
I, Tonya is largely a biographic film of Tonya Harding (played by a chameleonic Margot Robbie); how she came up from an abusive mother (a perfect Allison Janney) to land in the arms of an abusive husband (Sebastian Stan). The film chooses to tell the story in an interview format, cutting between the actors playing their characters in present day and then to the scenes of which they are discussing (much like in The Big Short, which also featured a cameo by Robbie). It’s a risky move since the film can lose its audience with so many timeline jumps, but editor Tatiana S. Riegel and director Craig Gillespie pull it off.
The main idea of the movie is to let the audience make up its own mind on the subject by giving us multiple humanized perspectives. The film not only shoots multiple scenarios of how specific events might have happened, but it plays around with the atmosphere of the film by playing cheerful songs over incredibly dark and hard scenes. This decision could have also come out horribly wrong, sanctioning domestic abuse or making it seem like something comedic, but instead it leaves the audience in an independent ground, letting us pull out our own conclusions from what happened.
And then there’s the performances, which are directed to be caricatures for comedic relief, but the actors behind all the characters give all of them a redeeming depth, making all of their actions seem less like exaggerations and more pragmatic.
In the end the film feels incredibly contemporary with the way it portrays a famous event, and plays around with the conceptions of truth; thankfully it lets the audience formulate our own conclusions. As a plus, the film is incredibly executed with the cast, director, editor, and whoever chose the incredible music bringing their A-game.