Another manic mother comes forward in Allison Janney’s charismatically assured, unsentimentally sewer-mouthed mom to Margot Robbie’s gloriously vivid Tonya Harding in Craig Gillespie’s brutal, funny, biting, cutting, kicking, snarling “I, Tonya.” Mom has confidence in her vision, and it’s her little girl all the way, from tiny toddler skating menace, to grown, driven competitive skater. Are these caricature/characters impolite? Yup. Incorrect? As for this wholesome American family, I’m mightily taken by the force and the fury and the unlikely obscene aperçus strewn on the ice and down the road throughout. Steven Rogers’ script rollicks with bludgeoning sass, and works as an indictment of decades of shit media and exploitation of tragedy huge and modest, and a celebration of a frighteningly all-American sense of unshakable confidence and personal rectitude. “The haters always say, ‘Tonya, tell the truth!’ There’s no such thing as truth. Everyone has their own truth.” Oh dear. Oh, darling. Or, very early on, Janney’s LaVona Golden sets another mother straight: “Do not swear in front of the kids”; “I didn’t swear, you —-.” Reader, I laughed and laughed. Rogers title-pages his screenplay as “based on irony free, wildly contradictory, totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly.” With Sebastian Stan, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson, Caitlin Carver, Bojana Novakovic, Bobby Cannavale. 119m. (Ray Pride)
“I, Tonya” opens Friday, December 22.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.