Much to my surprise, I discovered, after all these years, that it wasn’t Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) who took a stick to rival Nancy Kerrigan’s (Caitlin Carver) knee in the back hall of the skating rehearsal rink, and thus roared onto the front page and attendant of multi screens of the world media, as the darkest villain since Lizzie Borden was accused of taking a hatchet and chopping up her parents in Massachusetts.

“I, Tonya’s” director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers have since informed me that it was a duo of stooges put together by Tonya’s husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) and his moronic high school best friend and Tonya’s bodyguard Shawn, played here by scene and movie stealer Paul Walter Hauser, who really deserved a best supporting nomination. You have to see him to believe his work.

Tonya, who was almost as dumb and hungry as Jeff, thought the idea was simply to send some mailed death threats that would unnerve the sweet Kerrigan.

The plan got misinterpreted, and things went awry, resulting in a wounded Kerrigan, who eventually went on win the silver in the Olympics.

But “I,Tonya” is less about the attack and more about Tonya and how she came to be so emotionally crippled as to be seduced into such awful choices.

It all started as it often does, with the bad luck of having an even more emotionally damaged mother, LaVona Golden, played here full out by Oscar nominated Allison Janney.


One might think that mother and daughter from the really, really wrong side of the tracks with names like LaVona and Tonya might start problems with one another from the start, and lo and behold, they sure did.

Tonya, we learn, was blessed, or cursed, depending on how one sees the whole picture, with a natural gift for the silver blades.

LaVona, the foul-mouthed Mama from hell, smells money and a chance to get the nagging kid, whom she occasionally slaps and once accidentally stabbed with a potato peeling knife, out of the house. She bullies the local ice coach (Julianne Nicholson) into taking the child on.

Tonya takes to ice as Donald Trump takes to real estate and goes on to become a champion figure skater — the first female figure skater to perform two, count ’em, two triple axel jumps.

By now she’s a favorite with the audiences, but sneered at by the snooty judges who consider her homemade spangled and glittery costumes déclassé.

Hubby Jeff, who also has a nose for greener wallets, pushes her along and takes on the slapping and punching chores from Mama.


The story moves into the famous assault, the recriminations, worldwide publicity, Tonya’s rise and fall, and winds up in court.

It ends with a series of tiresome codas from Tonya, wearing a god-awful fright wig as she sits smoking at her chrome kitchen table, Jeff now broke and older, and Mama LaVona, slumped on a tattered couch, tethered to an oxygen tube, while her parrot, perched on her shoulder, pecks at her glasses. It’s a scene worthy of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Margot Robbie, playing Tonya, knocks her ball out of the park in every scene she’s in, and that’s all of them. She rides her ascent and descent with class and smooth professionalism. She deserves her nomination, and if Sally Hawkins stays home, she could be a challenger.

It’s Allison Janney who’s getting most of the press, and deservedly so, even though she’s really simply Janney playing the makeup, and it’s a get-up that will block your sinuses.

The film, and the story don’t amount to all that much, but the music? Oh boy! It kicks up some fun memories.

For your money you get Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger,” Bad Company’s “Shooting Star” and Laura Branigan’s “Gloria,” among others. Not bad.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

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