I, Tonya: Margot Robbie Shines in Sharply Uneven Absurdist Comedy of the Infamous American Skater

Finally proving that she is more than a pretty face to look at, Margot Robbie shines in the absurdist satire, I, Tonya, based on (or rather inspired by) the true events of the infamous American figure skater, Tonya Harding.

Sharply uneven, I, Tonya attempts to be a darkly comedic story of one of the most sensational scandals in modern American sports history, as well as a cautionary tale about the obsession to achieve fame at all cost.  Also thrown into the mix are elements of parental abuse and domestic violence, resulting in a film that lacks clear identity, shifting gears and moods from one scene to another.

Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with an ill-conceived, and even more poorly executed attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan.

Wearing heavy makeup (and terrible clothes) to deglamorize her character, Margot Robbie shines as the fiery Harding, ;iving with her abusive and domineering mother.

Things change, for both better and worse, when she meets, falls for, and marries Jeff Gillooly (played by the handsome mustachioed Sebastian Stan).  For a whole reel (the second one) we get a portrait of a turbulent marriage, defined by moments of passion and love as well as verbal arguments and physical abuse.

The secondary cast includes Allison Janney as Tonya’s ambitious and nasty  mother, LaVona Golden, an unattractive acid-tongued woman, who punctuates the narrative with one-line observations about everything she sees.

Broadly conceived and written by Rogers and haphazardly directed by Craig Gillespie’s I, TONYA is, in moments, an entertainingly irreverent comedy of Harding’s life and career in all of their absurdist, unchecked, and checkered facets.

I am not a champion of the film but I do admire Robbie’s consistently tenacious performance as a woman whose life is defined by a single-minded obsession, determined to achieve her goals at all costs.