You may think you know Tonya Harding, the US figure skater whose career was ruined when she was associated with an attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, ahead of the 1994 US Figure Skating Championships. But Craig Gillespie's I, Tonya might convince you otherwise. Presented as a faux documentary, the film starring Margot Robbie has a 90% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's what they're saying:
- "I, Tonya takes greater risks with the biopic genre than any other in recent memory, and it's remarkable how much of it lands upright. It's the triple axel of based-on-true-story movies," writes Andrew Lapin at NPR. Robbie "magnificently" embodies Harding with "a childlike sincerity, a lost-soul cluelessness," he writes. This, and the film's chaotic mix of personas and styles, "builds to a satisfying and illuminating portrait of a poor American girl who maybe never stood a chance."
- "There's something genuinely electric about the narrative's headlong tumble into madness," coming from "a script where the truth was irrefutably stranger than any fiction," writes Leah Greenblatt at Entertainment Weekly. She found the skating scenes "thrilling." But "Robbie is the real revelation," Greenblatt writes. "She's a powerhouse: a scrappy, defiant subversion of the American dream. You won't just find yourself rooting for this crazy kid; you might even fall a little bit in love."
- It's "a darkly satiric comedy with the tenor of a Coen brothers movie" and "earns the sort of high marks for creative interpretation that its protagonist complained eluded her," writes Brian Lowry at CNN. But he argues "the sleight of hand used to realize the skating sequences is visually distracting in places." He also says Robbie "struggles" at the start to truly come across as just 15. And though she recovers to deliver "a layered and unexpectedly sympathetic portrait," Allison Janney, playing Harding's mother, "pretty nearly steals the show."
- Christy Lemire is effusive: Robbie gives "the performance of a lifetime," conveying "the requisite swagger of an athlete at the top of her sport" as well as the "low sense of self-worth buried underneath." As for the film itself, it highlights Harding's outsider status from the outset, which "makes her story relatable beyond the insular world of figure skating," Lemire writes at RogerEbert.com. She concludes by calling I, Tonya a "nearly flawless program" and "one of the year's best films."
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