I do admit it, sometimes a little over hype is that one little factor that keeps a really good movie from being great. While watching I, TONYA, I knew I was watching a very good movie, but not a great one. And while I was watching I was trying to determine what it was. Usually if it is over hype, I will view the movie another time and form an opinion there. And I do believe it was a little over hype here. About 47%. This film has gotten such stellar reviews and some even called it “the best of the year” and starring who I think career wise is already excellent and is still only at her beginning, I mean, who wouldn’t get excited? Don’t get me wrong, this is still a really great movie, but I was expecting a masterpiece, and unfortunately it just didn’t get there for me. I always have this feeling in the theater when something is absolutely masterful. I got it while watching The Wolf of Wall Street. I got it watching Pulp Fiction. I got it watching Inception. I’ve got it with dozens and dozens of movies. And just like this year, just like The Shape of Water and The Disaster Artist, wanting that feeling again, it just never showed up. Oh, and the skating effects were a little jarring to say the least, could’ve been polished up.
And while I do blame 47% on over hype, I do have to blame 47% on execution. The trailers and advertising for this film makes you believe that this film is based of the interviews and testimonies of Tonya Harding, her ex-husband, her mom, her bodyguard, and a couple of others, leading to conflicting events on who was really responsible and who really thought of the plan of the incident where someone was hired to bash Nancy Kerrigan’s knee/leg, giving Harding an advantage in the 1994 winter Olympics. The film starts out by people pointing fingers and saying that and this did and did not take place and taking several approaches to a couple of events. But about 30 minutes in, the movie stops that and kind of just straights shoots it, which was a little disappointing. I wanted it to keep going off the wall fucking bonkers, completely using the unreliable narrator device that this movie had locked up and ready to use.
I love the unreliable narrator device. I think that it is still a untapped resource in Hollywood films today and could still be used to make some pretty damn great entertainment. It works so well in The Usual Suspects and Gone Girl. And reading all about the Nancy Kerrigan incident, it seems like it could’ve been used to perfection here. I mean, with these colorful, weird, and sometimes out right nuts characters, could we really keep them at their word? The answer is a solid no. So why couldn’t the movie do that the entire 2 hour run time? It certainly had enough time to do events a couple of times over in different points of view to really confuse and confound the audience. Let them make the decision on whose to blame. But nope, 30 minutes in, it almost abandons that premise and tells a straight story. Now, I wouldn’t have minded it abandoning it, but it really needed to come back at the end, when the investigation with the incident was at its peak. Now THAT would’ve been an entertaining finale. But no, it just tells us and hints and some confusion, it doesn’t show us. And if you’ve remember my earlier reviews, you know how much I am a fan on showing rather than telling.
But it is still a really good movie. Let’s not get too far off track. I really liked it a lot and could watch it again in the future. And that is probably because of the performances. Margot Robbie, who should’ve gotten a Oscar nomination for The Wolf of Wall Street, is utterly fantastic here. She shows that she is young talent not to be messed with, and even though I do not think she will win the Oscar for her performance here, she is sure to win one in due time. She plays Tonya Harding with that grace she tried to show the people watching, with that underlying dangerous attitude she had to have because of her vicious mother. Which, by the way, I think you can give Allison Janney the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress here. She is downright despicable, but we can’t help but laugh at her disgusting and monstrous attitude. I have never seen Allison Janney better, she gives one of her finest performances here.
But the real MVP, that I’m really surprised doesn’t have much Oscar buzz, is the great Sebastian Stan, who plays Tonya Harding’s ex husband Jeff Gillooly. He is absolutely phenomenal here and steals every single scene he is in, even from right under Margot Robbie. His portrayal of Jeff as a bit of a love struck, dumb as nails, but as abusive as sin individual has that spark that I look for in a Academy Award worthy performance. I think people will look back, especially if he isn’t nominated this year, as the performance that makes him stand out above the rest. I know he is the Winter Soldier, but that role is fucking peanuts to this. This is master class in acting and in ten years, people will look back at his no nomination as a huge and unbelievable snub.
Also, as I mentioned above, the skating effects are pretty jarring and terrible. And that is the other 6%. If something (I don’t know how, I’m not a filmmaker) could’ve been done about that, it might’ve made the movie a little more presentable. But seeing Margot Robbie’s head basically just copied and pasted onto a profession skater double like a five year old would do with photoshop, is almost as bad as the fake baby in American Sniper. Maybe just, have someone skate and just not show her face next time. We don’t need close ups of Robbie skating, the movie isn’t exactly about her skating per say, it’s about her character, her life, and what she did/didn’t do.
So like The Disaster Artist and The Shape of Water, I, Tonya is a really good movie that is missing a couple of elements from being great. Some of it was over hype, some of it was the device that they only pulled the trigger half way on, some of it was the jarring skating effects. You might think differently than me, and I hope that you give this movie a shot if you’re interested, mainly because of the fantastic and masterful performances. But the next time they have a perfect opportunity to the perfect unreliable narrator story, they better just hold down their finger on the button, and never let up.