In early 1994, Tonya Harding made national headlines when she was banned for life from competitive figure skating, after she and her then-husband Jeff Gilooly allegedly conspired to have Harding’s top rival Nancy Kerrigan attacked and injured in order to prevent Kerrigan from participating. The years since have seen Harding’s story become the stuff of American tabloid legend, from her struggle-ridden upbringing to her fraught relationship with Gilooly to the life Harding had to forge for herself after having her true calling ripped away from her. And then there’s that eternal question: did she know what was to happen to Kerrigan?
I, Tonya is a ferocious cinematic take on the story, long before and well after, of who Tonya Harding was and the people around her that made her so. (We can’t publish our review just yet, but we’ve already seen it here at CoS, and we can tell you that it’s terrific.) Margot Robbie delivers a standout turn as Harding, capturing the skater’s tunnel-visioned pursuit of perfection in all of its ugliness and glory alike. You’ll be hearing her name quite a bit in the coming months around this performance, to say nothing of Allison Janney’s scene-robbing turn as her unforgiving mother and Sebastian Stan’s as the demurely abusive Gilooly. Director Craig Gillespie captures the highs and lows of Harding’s life in all of their triumph and pain, swinging from fits of crass comedy to grave explorations of domestic violence in all its forms in the same breath.
We can’t speak highly enough of Neon’s forthcoming release, and while you’ll have to wait until December 8th to see I, Tonya, the film’s first full trailer gives an ample taste of what Gillespie’s off-the-wall biopic has to offer. It’s filthy, it’s sweet, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s as true a portrait of a perhaps misunderstood cult icon as we’ve seen in years. In so many words, this is going to be one to see.