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dir Craig Gillespie
scr Steven Rogers
prd Tom Ackerley, Margot Robbie, Steven Rogers, Bryan Unkeless
with Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser, Bobby Cannavale, Mckenna Grace, Caitlin Carver, Ricky Russert, Anthony Reynolds, Jason Davis, Bojana Novakovic
release US 8.Dec.17, UK 23.Feb.17
We're innocent, officer: Stan and Harding
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Taking a "truth is stranger than fiction" approach, this entertaining and darkly important film recounts the story of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding. She's played with gusto by Margot Robbie, who also produces and surrounds herself with a terrific cast. And director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers stir in plenty of wit, keeping us laughing even as we flinch from the screen.
After her critical mother LaVona (Janney) puts her on the ice at age 3, Tonya (Grace then Robbie) rises through the ranks to become a figure skating champion in late 1980s America. The officials admire her athleticism as the first woman to complete a triple axel jump, but they loathe her white-trash aesthetic. And her private life is chaos, especially when on-off boyfriend-husband Jeff (Stan) and his chucklehead friend Shawn (Hauser) concoct a plan to intimidate Tonya's rival Nancy Kerrigan (Carver) before the 1994 Winter Olympics. But everything spirals out of control.
At the start, the film acknowledges the conflicting accounts of this story, then dives into various perspectives, lacing scenes with the irony the characters fail to see in themselves. This is pitch-black comedy. We may laugh at these ridiculous people, but we also see ourselves reflected in their exaggerated narrow-mindedness and thoughtlessness. No one in this story feels responsible for anything they did, which makes the movie eerily relevant more than two decades on.
Robbie may be prettier than Harding, but she skilfully nails the phoney smile of a tough woman trying desperately to appear feminine, as well as the battered victim of domestic abuse yearning for love and acceptance. Her steeliness repels sympathy, even as we can't help feel her pain and confusion. Opposite her, Stan is terrific as the nice guy with stream of vicious cruelty underneath. And Janney is simply devastating as a woman who finds it impossible to speak a kind word. It's a roaring performance that's note perfect.
The events surrounding Harding's fall from grace had a profound affect on the media, creating a villain everyone loved to hate long before internet trolling was a thing. So despite the wickedly snarky sense of humour, which is amusing right to the literally bitter end, the film carries an important message about the complex truth behind stories that go viral. It's not easy to remember that everyone in a scandal has his or her own perspective, but this film reminds us that it's worth looking further.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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