Rated R for all the cursing. I watched this with my wife, my brother-in-law, my future sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law. As much cursing as there was, I don't think it ever got awkward. The most uncomfortable was the quick, semi-graphic sex scene. But yeah. R.
DIRECTOR: Craig Gillespie
She had to be involved, right? Like...she HAD to be. This movie just got so meta and inside baseball that she HAD to be involved. Well, the big question I have is "Why wasn't this nominated for Best Picture?" This might have been one of my favorite movies of the year. It's just a perfect balance of everything. It also hits the nostalgia card pretty hard. I now realize that I'm a full on, no-one-questions-my-adult-card adult. My brother-in-law, who is getting married this year, had never heard of Tonya Harding. I could tell him practically everything about Tonya Harding and I hate sports. That's the litmus test of my age.
Margot Robbie might be a strategic genius. She has gone from really not being in the spotlight to just dominating projects to launch her career into the stratosphere. I know, Suicide Squad wasn't a thing. But you know what was a thing? Harley Quinn. I know that she was a producer for this film. I think she was. But she could easily be pigeonholed as simply a pretty actress. Meaty roles don't usually go to actresses like her. But she seemed to really fight for it. She's now up for Best Actress and she totally deserves it. I don't think she'll get it. But for all I know, I won't even finish this review before it is announced. (I'm writing this during the commercials during the Oscars, which is probably the best for maintaining flow, right?) But Margot Robbie took this person who was considered a national joke and made her fascinating. It's not to say that Tonya Harding was ever and angel or even vindicating. But she made her truly sympathetic. She did so much wrong, but knowing that people exist outside of one moment is a hard idea to convey. Robbie humanizes Harding outside of the world of celebrity tabloids. She's an incredibly broken individual who just survives in the way that she can. Now, this is extraordinarily dramatic the way I'm writing. But what really works is that she makes Tonya Harding funny in a way that she wasn't funny before. While I can't say that the movie makes me laugh with her, you don't laugh at her. You laugh at the insane world she's caught up in. But Margot Robbie grounds all of that. She gets it in a way that I don't know a lot of actresses would.
But then there's Allison Janney. She won, by the way. (I told you, I was watching this at the time of writing this.) She's so good. She deserved it for every second. Yes, I'm really bummed for Laurie Metcalf because her performance in Lady Bird was the performance of a lifetime. But Allison Janney destroyed in this movie. I mean, there are people who have played the evil mother character and even played it hilariously well. But I don't think anyone will really hit the comic timing and dramatic malice that Allison Janney does in this movie. I, Tonya would have been great without her, but I don't think it would be as memorable without her. There are these choices that she is constantly making throughout the movie. She lives in this world where love is completely redefined. She has no idea what love is. She doesn't see herself as the bad guy. That's not even true. She doesn't understand what a bad guy is. She things that there are strong people and there are weak people and it is the role of the strong to eliminate the weak. It is so fascinating. She thinks that the rest of us live in a fantasy world. She's hilariously evil throughout, but looking at the footage of Tonya Harding's mother, all I can say is that she nailed it while making it remarkably entertaining. She's honestly so good in that role. Allison Janney normally kills it, but this is one of those special roles. I mean, she was amazing in Juno, but this might be my favorite role of hers. I had tears of laughter in my eyes every time she was on screen. She's that good.
I'm also impressed with Sebastian Stan (the motif of this review so far? Comment on every actor one paragraph at a time). Sebastian Stan only came into my world with his Bucky Barnes. It has to be hard to break that mold. Like Margot Robbie, this was an extremely smart choice for him. He got to really show some range with this. What is great about the format, especially when it comes to Stan's character, is that the film has the Rashomon element. It is being told both by Tonya Harding and Jeff Gilooly. Harding is consistently one person, told in degrees of good and evil. When Jeff tells the story, Jeff is a completely different person than what is presented in Harding's story. That means that Stan has to make both people plausible. I don't want to compare his character to the story in Doubt, but there is a bit of sympathy yet revulsion. He probably did everything. But then he adds this element that is just perfect and that is his relationship with Paul Walter Hauser's Shawn. Shawn is a smaller part, but he's just perfect. Shawn seems like he is completely fictional. Then the credits sequence showed him in real life and he's completely real. Stan and Hauser play so well together in this movie. Really this is a movie about casting and how a perfect cast can make a good movie great. It transforms the safe biopic into something completely fascinating. These are all just parts of a whole.
The movie is more than just the beating of Nancy Kerrigan. But the movie wisely addresses that moment head on. It is appropriate that this takes place about the same time as OJ. We had OJ mania last year. That need to know if he did it drove an obnoxiously long documentary last year. We just wanted to know if he did it. The movie acknowledges that this is all we really know Tonya Harding for. But it also says that there is so much more and that moment is just the end result to a much longer story. It is so good that I'm mad that it just got ignored for the Best Picture category. When Denzel was nominated for Roman J. Israel, Esq., he was nominated for a good performance in a not so great movie. Robbie's nomination is appropriate, but the rest of the movie deserves to get pulled along. If I had to be critical about this movie at all, it had to be for some of the CG stuff. Again, I hate to be calling myself out because I tend to ignore special effects, but there were a few uncanny valley moments. I couldn't tell you what was wrong with the shots, but I knew exactly when I was watching CG. That's not awful and it doesn't detract from the movie, but I did notice these moments. The story isn't about Margot Robbie trying to recreated Tonya Harding's Olympic successes. It is about the person and the relationships and the movie delivers those moments in spades. Realize, I don't like sports at all. Kobe Bryant winning an Academy Award is an abomination, but this movie really grabbed me in every way. I'm so glad that I own this one because I'd love to show another group this movie. I hope Robbie gets it. She's probably not, but I am so impressed by her and everyone who made this movie. It was a nice movie to sneak in before the actual awards and it just got me excited to watch the presentation. Watch this one There's swearing, but who cares sometimes.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.