December 5, 2017 -- This biographical drama about figure skater Tonya Harding features some great performances by actors playing some very unusual characters in some highly dysfunctional families.
Margot Robbie (“Suicide Squad”) gives a bravura performance as Tonya Harding. In this film Harding is not played as evil, but as driven to win the respect of her very critical mother and to prove she is the best ice skater in the world.
This movie makes it look as if Tonya was discriminated against by ice skating judges because she was a rough redneck who was more athletic than ballerina-like. She scored high marks for the technical difficulty of her performances, but low marks for her costumes and artistic expression.
In one scene, she is criticized for not having a fur coat, so she and her family made a coat out of rabbit fur, after hunting rabbits in the woods, skinning and eating them. She did not have the money to buy fancy costumes, so she wore homemade costumes.
Tonya's mother, LaVona Golden (played by Allison Janney of “The Girl on the Train”) is a tough, foul-mouthed, divorced chain smoker who is convinced that Tonya is too soft, so she toughens her up by being harshly critical of Tonya. It is hard to tell if LaVona loves her daughter or not. There is evidence on both sides of the question.
Tonya's abusive husband, Jeff Gillooly (played by Sebastian Stan of the “Captain America” movies) is another character who is hard to read. It seems like he really loved Tonya, but he also beat her and betrayed her.
As for what really happened in “The Incident,” the attack on rival figure skater Nancy Kerrigan (played by Caitlin Carver) that is unclear in this movie, too. This movie seems to leave open the possibility that Tonya Harding did not have advance knowledge of the attack, although it appears she knew something was going on.
Although Gillooly and Tonya's bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser of “Locked Away”) and two of Shawn's friends, were definitely involved in the attack, Tonya's role is not as clear, although she did pay a heavy legal price for her actions. The movie makes it appear her sentence was not a fair one.
One of the most revealing scenes in the movie takes place after the Kerrigan was hurt in the attack. Tonya's mother comes to her house and says nice things to Tonya. This makes Tonya suspicious of her mother's motives, and for good reason, as it turns out. This scene says a lot about Tonya, and her family.
This is a very entertaining film about a very dysfunctional family, and a truly fascinating pair of women, Tonya and her mother LaVona. Jeff Gillooly and Shawn Eckhardt are fascinating as well. This is one messed up bunch of people, but they are also the stuff of which great stories are made. This film rates a B.
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