“There’s no such thing as truth,” drawls Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) at the start of this wickedly funny pseudo-biopic. Dressed in double denim, boot on knee, wire-brush hair at least partially tamed, she’s sitting in a nondescript kitchen telling her side of the story that turned her into an international hate figure in the early 1990s. Hers isn’t the only version in Craig Gillespie’s film, though, which also draws from the wildly contradictory statements of Harding’s mother (Allison Janney) and ex-husband (Sebastian Stan). “Everyone has their own truth,” says Harding.
What we do know: Tonya Harding is a two-time Olympian and a Skate America Champion whose career imploded in 1993 when she was implicated in an attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. After pleading guilty to hindering the investigation, Harding was banned for life from the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Here, I, Tonya charts Harding’s rise and fall in Coen-esque fashion, shooting scenes of domestic abuse, reprehensible parenthood and killer competitiveness through a blackly humorous lens.
For Robbie, it’s a dream role. Her performance is every bit as vanity free as her Harley Quinn turn in Suicide Squad, and she’s a revelation, finding humour and humanity in a woman whom the media both vilified and cartoonised. Near seamless CGI gives the impression that Robbie did all the pirouetting herself (she didn’t), while the tongue-in-cheek tone recalls the likes of Casino and Goodfellas (only instead of gangsters we have ice skaters and manchild hackers). “I never did this,” Harding says to camera while reloading a rifle. Either way, her story (or stories) makes for thrillingly acid-tongued entertainment.
This review was originally published in Crack magazine.