It's not a spoiler to observe that "Yo, Tonya" ends the way many Hollywood biographies end, with a quick glimpse of the real-life individual that we've just seen skillfully represented in the last two hours: in this case, the disgraced former figure skater Tonya Harding, fiercely embodied by the Australian actress Margot Robbie.
Notably, they show us not only a photograph of Harding but a fragment of her historical performance at the 1991 figure skating championship, where she became the first American woman to achieve the elusive triple axel in competition. Harding, 20, who is in the prime of her career in the future, looks jubilant, completely at ease and wonderfully agile; she is a dervish turning in turquoise fringes.
It is revealing that this is the image that the film leaves us: a reminder that before becoming a national pariah, his name was linked forever with that of his former rival and alleged victim, Nancy Kerrigan, Harding was a champion in every inch.
Of course, the clip is also an opportunity for us to mentally reproduce Robbie's performance and obtain favorable comparisons with the real deal. Like the judges in our own dramatic Olympics, we are invited to admire the skill and precision with which Robbie nails Harding in that glorious moment: his fragile joy, his exultant smile and his extraordinary athletic prowess (the latter reproduced on the screen with digital assistance).
"Yo, Tonya", in other words, does not try to hide his enthusiasm for the approval of the audience. That is appropriate and more than a little false, since the hasty and inconstant judgment of the masses is one of the main satirical objectives of the film.
Those of us who remember the notorious events of January 6, 1994, the day that Kerrigan suffered an attack next to his career by an aggressor hired by Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, You can also remember the contempt that was rained on Harding for months by an audience that ensured its complicity and by a news media interested in turning the whole sordid matter into a ranking bonanza.
By focusing on Harding in the years leading up to that incident, from his hard-working class education in Portland, Oregon, to the relentless abuse he endured in several hands, "I, Tonya" issues a sharp and biting corrective, as well as a sy pathetic plea for the fundamental humanity and decency of his battered heroine. Directed by Greig Gillespie ("Lars and the Real Girl"), the film is a deeply American tragedy with a black betrayal of black comedy, an ungovernable party of fake documentary interviews, unreliable narrators and other glib assaults the fourth wall.
His argument seems to be that, although the truth may be uncertain, one can always count on the public jumping to the most sordid conclusions possible. And the writer Steven Rogers, who based his script on interviews "tremendously contradictory" with Harding and Gillooly, does not leave things clear, but delights in their holes and contradictions. Mixing a cast of discordant voices that riff and annotate the story as it progresses, the film challenges us to guess whether we are seeing a true representation, a shrill exaggeration or a sarcastic amalgam of both.
And then you wonder how the real mother of LaVona Golden, the estranged mother of Harding, looked like the withered withering Gorgon embodied here by an Allison Janney stealing the scene. Spraying insults in all directions, fixing the world with a look that suggests a kinship with Alien H. Giger, LaVona beats her daughter physically and verbally, berating her performance on the ice and demanding that she see her companions as rivals instead of friends. (Tonya is played in her youth by Maizie Smith and Mckenna Grace.)
As LaVona points out, there is a method for her pettiness. "I made you a champion, knowing you would hate me for that," he growls in one of his few printable lines. " That's the sacrifice a mother makes".
But we see Tonya bearing the burden of that sacrifice, forced to grow up in a house without love and condemned to marry the first handsome loser she knows: Jeff Gillooly, very well played by Sebastian Stan as a mustache in search of a IQ When it comes to slapping Tonya, Jeff more or less picks up where LaVona leaves off.
Tonya, meanwhile, returns the slap and often, if they gave him gold medals for kicking in the groin, Anyway, not all blows that she supports are physical. We see how Tonya's career gets a strong beating from the judges who consistently give their grades lower than their rivals, mainly because their dresses are sewn in an amateur and broken way. -The education in the home does not fit the healthy image they are looking for (the slender and elegant Kerrigan, briefly interpreted here by Caitlin Carver, fits perfectly into the mold.)
That makes Gillespie's film one of the few that year to deal with problems of class, privilege, perception, celebrity and the drift of the American dream, which is a rather rare achievement to make you want it to be a better one. The ancestors of the story are obvious: with its killer soundtrack and bold and muscular camera moves, "I, Tonya" is clearly conceived in the epic vein of tall tales of "Goodfellas" or "American Hustle," even when he questions and undermines his own narrative at all times with a lightness that recalls films like "The Big Short".
These are not very entertaining but unoriginal tactics, and after two visits I'm not sure they're guaranteed. The story of Harding, in this too broad account, is not particularly strong in narrative density, or, for that matter, ambiguity. When Tonya's coach Diane Rawlinson (an excellent Julianne Nicholson) marvels, "She really did that!" In reference to a particularly exhausting training regimen, it is not exactly the material of the revelation. The attack on Kerrigan, chaired by Jeff's dangerously deceptive friend, Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser, imposing if it is a single note), plays with the same sadness and weariness that most of the stupid plans.
Robbie's performance, especially in its heartbreaking final moments, illuminates the film as a beacon, and his compassionate claim to Harding's image feels fully won. But the irony of this story, especially with a title like "I, Tonya", is that Tonya herself, as easy as she is, feels almost eclipsed by all the second-hand goombah antics that are exhibited. Gillespie may be in debt to filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese and David O. Russell, but the depth of the character and the tonal control of his best work seem out of reach.
That may explain why all the reassuring nods to Harding's abusive past leave a particularly bitter taste. aftertaste. It's not that "Yo, Tonya" invites us to laugh at domestic violence, exactly; it is more than the film does not have the wit, the chops or the intuition to transcend the banality of what it shows us. When Gillespie turns a well-aimed kick into an auction, or puts Dire Straits's "Romeo and Juliet" on a happy montage, it's unclear what it really means, except perhaps the limits of his own imagination.
& # 39; I, Tonya & # 39;
Rating: R, for generalized language, violence and sexual content / nudity
Duration: 2 hours, 1 minute
Reproduction: ArcLight Cinemas, Hollywood, and Landmark, West Los Angeles
View more read stories on Entertainment this hour »