As we come to a close with 2017, it's pretty much a given that the most defining trait of the year is realization in the awful way we treat women. Whether it's the women who've finally found a voice to speak against the sexual harassment they've been dealt with, the women who were wronged for trying to speak against it years, or Hillary Clinton still being trashed by media outlets, as if there wasn't an actual piece of shit human being in the White House; women deserve an endless supply of apologies from us, as well as our support in ending this awful cycle. I,Tonya, ends up being yet another look at the awful way the media, as well as everyone watching, treat people (but mostly women) when we decide what our next target of hate is, the result isn't pretty.
The movie itself focuses on former figure skater, Tonya Harding, most known for her connection to an incident wherein a rival had been assaulted. I'll admit, given my age I barely knew anything regarding it, I've heard of it in jokes, largely aimed at mocking Tonya herself, but it's nothing I'd ever expect to see a movie focus on. In truth, while that incident is a focus on the film, it's goals are much higher; Tonya's crime is why we come to watch the film, but it quickly becomes apparent that the film wants to explain her life (as close to truth as possible) to shame us, the viewer. Tonya is clearly not in the right, that much we accept, as well as she does, but as we learn of her life, the unfair treatment from the judges, the media and even her family, we quickly feel sorry. Pushed into a dream we're not even sure was hers to begin with, the film gets nasty real quick despite the laughs we get all throughout. Even as the film closes, we realize that Tonya may have had the least involvement in the incident, but she still walked away with the worst punishment, possibly due to her status as the most famous person involved, but possibly also due to the sexism clearly rampant in the story.
There's a lot of strong performances here, from Sebastian Stan as Harding's meek, yet abusive husband, to Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn, Harding's dimwit bodyguard, but most importantly Margot Robbie as Tonya herself. The performances kept reminding me of Martin Scorsese films, which is a pretty common sentiment, but it's reminiscent without feeling like an uninspired copy of his work. Back to Robbie, everyone is great here, but she is just spectacular, maybe it's just because I've seen the movie recently, but she deserves an Oscar for this performance, she's evil, kind, damaged, about everything you can imagine and it all feels natural. At one point, the film stops to let her point at all of her abusers, which put everyone, including myself, silent after an hour or so of laughing, an uncomfortable silence that speaks volumes about the strengths found in Robbie's performance here. If there's one person who almost gets away with stealing the show, it's Allison Janney as Tonya's mother LaVona, she's a monster and no matter how much we're led to believe she might be coming towards a redemption, she always manages to be a worse person. By the end though, it's still Robbie's show, in a film filled with impressive performances she's on top.
I,Tonya is hilarious, dark and tragic, the kind of film that entertains you while making you feel like the worst human being. That it's come in a year that has made everyone reevaluate their past choices, recognizing the awful things we've allowed up to this point, feels perfectly apt. If you haven't seen this, which should be plenty of you, I highly recommend you go out and watch this, easily one of the year's best films.
4 OUT OF 4
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Written by Octaviano Macias