Blu-ray Review: I, Tonya

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Craig Gillespie | CAST: Margot Robbie, Allison Janey, Sebastian Stan, Bobby Cannavale, Julianna Nicholson
RELEASE DATE: March 13, 2018 | PRICE: DVD $17.96, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $19.96
BONUSES: director’s commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes
SPECS: R | 119 min. | Drama comedy | 2.39:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The sad, sensational story of figure skating champ Tonya Harding and her involvement in the 1984 leg-smashing attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan is brought garishly—but often brilliantly–to life in the flamboyant, critically acclaimed I, Tonya.

Like a skater unknowingly zipping around on thin ice, Aussie director Craig Gillespie (The Finest Hours) precariously balances genuine pathos, social satire and media criticism with a quick-paced, gung-ho approach, dodging back-and-forth between a chronological retelling of the stranger-than-true events and on-camera commentary by the principal characters involved.

Much of the film’s success glides on the key performers, and all are exemplary. Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), who also produced, embodies the spirit of the put-upon Tonya, a person the world came to hate. Like a church confessional, Robbie, in the guise of Tonya, gets to finally tell her side of the story here, recounting the string of dysfunctional events that led to her being banned from participating in competitive figure skating, her lifelong love. Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers balance the world view by delving deep into her troubled, trailer park-styled life, eliciting sympathy for the much-derided figure.

A huge part of her troubles come at the hands of her mother-from-hell (Allison Janney, The Girl on the Train), a cigarillo-drawing monstrosity who abuses her daughter psychologically and physically. Joining her in the film’s rogues gallery of rotten human beings are Sebastian Shaw (Logan Lucky) as Tonya’s horrible husband Jeff Gillooly, also prone to abuse, and Paul Walter Hauser (Super Troopers 2) as Shawn Eckhardt, Harding’s loathsomely incompetent bodyguard.

While this version of the story is easy to buy, it’s important to know that many still believe that Harding had a bigger hand on Kerrigan’s assault then the film shows. And conspicuously absent in this sordid saga is a Harding-Gillooly honeymoon sex tape peddled to the public. Perhaps Harding’s involvement as an advisor had something to do with the film.

Nominated for three Academy Awards for the performances of Robbie (Best Actress) and Janney (an odds-on favorite for Best Supporting Actress) and for Best Film Editing, I,Tonya did an okay $23 million at the domestic box-office, peaking at 1450 theaters after a slow roll-out. It’s likely to bring home the gold, however, on the home market, as word-of-mouth and awards chitchat will help propel it to hit status.

Buy or Rent I, Tonya

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.