Daily Cup 33 I, Tonya

Welcome to The Daily Cup a movie blog/writing project by Kyle B. Dekker, presented by Hot Chocolate Media. You can read series concept here. The basic rules, Kyle must watch 365 movies in 2018 and write about all of them. 292 of them have to be movies he's never seen before. Thanks for reading.

In college I majored in history. When studying historical events and people I was trained to consider the source of the information I was reading and what their potential biases and positions would be. The is especially true when reviewing secondary sources, such as accounts written by people not directly involved in the event or created many years after the event. I, Tonya (2017) is a biopic and the perfect example of a secondary source that someone should examine for its motives and biases.

The film tells the story of talented and controversial figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie). Her mother LoVanna Golden (Allison Janney) and ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) play critical roles in the story. The story is about a defiant woman of tremendous talent that faces a lifetime of poverty and abuse and still perseveres to compete in an Olympic Sport at a high level. The final act of the film focuses on “The Incident” where Tonya Harding’s main US skating rival Nancy Kerrigan was attacked ahead of the 1994 Olympics. Jeff Gillooly and Tonya Harding were always tied to the event, and considered responsible for it. I, Tonya paints a picture where Gillooly and his inept friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) organized the attack, and Tonya Harding was a naive innocent person wrongly pulled into “The Incident.”

This account is obviously biased from Tonya Harding’s point of view as she authorized the film and signed off on it. She is also benefiting financially from it, these are good things to keep in the back of your mind while watching the film. It’s safe to say this movie casts her in a pretty favorable light. It does hint at her bad habits of not training  as much as she should and smoking (dumb idea as an Olympic athlete with asthma). There is no way she didn’t know about the planned attack on Kerrigan, and the story spun that she didn’t know anything about it, is pure fantasy especially when you look at the real FBI investigation of the attack. The stories of her poverty are also exaggerated as the film neglects to mention USA Figure Skating paid for her training and billionaires Phil Knight (founder of Nike) and George Steinbrenner (owner of the NY Yankees) heavily suporter her throughout this time period.

The film is beautiful and the acting is phenomenal from all members of the cast. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney are excellent choices for Oscar nominations for acting, both are absolutely amazing in this. Sebastian Stan is also fantastic as Jeff Gillooly, an nept villain you just want to punch. I especially loved Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn, whose gives what feels like an over the top performance, until you watch actual video of his real life counterpart. If anything the filmmakers toned down the character’s zaniness for the film. The cinematography in the skating sequences is pure beauty, all skating film should look this good.

Sebastian Stan's mustache was my favorite character in the film.

Sebastian Stan's mustache was my favorite character in the film.

Historical biases and inaccuracies aside, I, Tonya is an excellently crafted film, that I really enjoyed. Packed with tremendous performances, stellar cinematography, and period perfect costumes it’s an excellent if skewed view at one of the biggest cultural events of the 1990s. As someone with vivid memories of “The Incident” it was fascinating to revisit it and it makes you consider the entire affair from a different point of view.


Movies new to me watched: 26/292

Other movies: 7/73

Total movies watched: 33/365

Have your own thoughts or opinions on this movie? Comment below or contact Kyle at kyle@hotchocolatemedia.net or on Twitter at @kbdekker.