Agreeably exceeding my expectations, I was impressed with this despite knowing nothing at all of the actual events it's based on - depicted method-wise with considerable licence and verve. Although the culmination of the saga, referred to as the 'incident', was as recently as 1994 I don't recall it being a news item, though from its nature it surely must have been.
In Portland, Oregon, Tonya Harding (played by Margot Robbie) is a top ranking ice figure skater having reached the peak by dint of relentless pressure and bullying from her mother-from-hell (Allison Janney, now clutching Oscar for Best Supporting Actress - against which I have no argument). This sweary-mouthed, humourless matriarch, with never a word of encouragement from her lips, only constant carping and criticism (plus impetuous domestic violence), wears her meanness like armour, not letting the merest suggestion of praise through. She maintains she's sacrificed her entire life to her daughter's training - and complains she's not appreciated for what she's done - and she single-handedly removes her child out of all education in order to devote her daughter's time to training, and practice, practice, practice. We see Tonya being bullied even as a little girl, but as she grows into adolescence there's no let-up of the harsh regime. And when she starts dating a young man (Sebastian Stan) the mother expresses her disapproval right up to and after their marriage. It very soon becomes evident that Tonya has found a husband who resorts to violence at least as quickly as her mother, perhaps even moreso, with his flying off the handle for the slightest reason, or practically none at all. At least the mother's justifiable (as she maintains) motive is that she's only doing it for her daughter's advancement and good, even if ineffectually, but the husband has no such pretext to fall back on. His unpredictable behaviour appears near-psychotic. All the time, Tonya has turned out to be no shrinking violet herself but will stand up for herself, not only swearing just as liberally as anyone, but also retaliating with violence in kind. One can understand Tonya's behaviour much more readily than that of the other two, considering that she knew no other way to live.
Meanwhile her competitiveness against her ice skating 'colleagues' (more like enemies in combat) takes nasty twists and reaches such a pitch on her wanting to be included in the American team coming up to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway, that her main rival is subjected to an horrific attack. If, like me, you didn't know the story, I'd better say no more.
I was really impressed with Australian director's Craig Gillespie work here. There are some very violent moments between Tonya and her mother and between Tonya and her husband, but they are all so snappily edited that despite occasional flinches I found I hardly ever had to look away. (In fact the only time I couldn't look was near the film's beginning when a rabbit is shot at).
I thought the script was superior throughout, and handled credibly by a uniformly strong cast.
My only major reservation is that all through the film a character may suddenly break off from a scene and directly address the camera - sometimes with a "This never happened!" or "This did happen!" . I wasn't quite sure of the point of this other than to add a light-heartedness to the drama which, to be honest, isn't as uniformly bleak as might have been thought, given the subject matter. There are already occasional comedic touches in the script itself.
The entire film is also punctuated by older versions of the main characters (presumably today) commenting wryly on the story as it progresses.
I found the film very absorbing, and it was on the whole, quite a genuine treat to watch...................7.5.
3 hours ago