Seems there was a time when everyone knew the name Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), and it wasn't for any good reason, either, it was thanks to the sensational crime she was involved with which brought the genteel sport of figure skating into a very harsh spotlight. Tonya, being interviewed, believes she was vilified for being poor in a sport that was strictly for the snobs before she entered into it; even if you were not rich and competing, you had to act as if you were, all classy behaviour, polite manners, pretty dresses and the like. But Tonya was not like that, she was brash, she was talented, and she was determined. Just a shame about the company she kept...
If you were around in the early nineteen-nineties, whether you were American or not, Tonya Harding was impossible to escape for a while when she was supposed to be complicit in the attack on her main rival Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), something she vehemently denied. This biopic agreed with her belief she was particularly hard done by, and more or less took her side, placing the blame on what would be termed poor white trash around her, which was all very well, but there was a kind of snobbery in that too, no matter how far Steven Rogers' screenplay wished to exonerate Harding when everyone she associated with on the same social strata was so despicable.
Or that's one impression; another could be that they were all exceptionally stupid, which is not a whole lot better, but may excuse some of the activities: forgive them, for they know not what they do. Curiously, for that reason - they were all dummies - some decided the film was a comedy, but you would be hard pressed to laugh at much of what this depicted, no matter how generous (or cruel) your sense of humour was. In the main, this was a pitiless account of a horrible true-life story where nobody emerged looking good, aside from the victim Kerrigan who since a fuller portrayal would have thrown the drama off-balance, was barely offered a line of dialogue in the whole movie.
So who did this concentrate upon? Tonya, yes, and Robbie's reading of her was nothing but authentic, you could almost believe you were watching the documentary this made halfhearted moves to pose as, though a pseudo-documentary would be more accurate with its faux-interviews with the "characters" mixed with footage cameras would never have been around to capture. Harding, her ex-husband and her mother were subject of interviews the film drew from, and it would seem the cast paid very close attention to them given what we see at the end when the clips are shown. What was disturbing was no matter how contradictory the lines they peddled were, we could discern the truth of an abused woman struggling to come to terms with being continually judged.
You might think she had been judged enough in her life, by her harridan mother (Allison Janney so sharp you could cut yourself on her), or by the committee who watched her performances, or by society at large, so perhaps the sport of skating where how well you do rests on someone's opinion rather than scoring a goal or hitting a point (unless you fell over or messed up) was not best suited to Tonya. As footage of a performance over the end credits illustrate, she was a fantastic dancer, and in a just world her talent would have seen her coast to huge success. It's just that she was sabotaged by her mother's incessant berating to do better, and being married to Jeff (Sebastian Stan), who she fought with often, and thought he could win his way back to her brittle affections by turning to crime to put off her competitors. His cohorts were no smarter than him, almost comically so - almost, but there's very little amusing about breaking a young woman's knee for a place in a contest Harding had in the bag anyway, and ultimately ruining her chances in the future, purely because you wanted to share in unearned reflected glory. Fearsomely played, yet I, Tonya was grim. Music by Peter Nashel, and loads of oldies.