Of all the movies to debut at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, none helped raise their stock more than I, Tonya. Initially thought of as little more than a question mark in the awards race, enthusiastic reviews have shot it into the stratosphere. Now, it’s a true contender, along with being one of the year’s best films. This week, I, Tonya opens and hopes to establish distributor Neon as the next A24, striking gold almost immediately. Not only could this prove to be a crossover hit, it seems very likely to be a legitimate Oscar player. Especially in Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, the picture is looking for a gold medal.
The film is a biopic of controversial figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), who briefly capturing America’s attention in the 1990’s. Shot using occasional talking head interviews by the chief characters, we see Tonya rise up through the ranks of her sport, spurred on by her cruel mother LaVona Golden (Allison Janney) and abusive husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). Of course, all she’s worked for is challenged by the status quo in the sport, who doesn’t like her “white trash” upbringing, especially when “class” is the key word everywhere else in figure skating. Then, there’s the notable incident spurred on by Gillooly and his friend Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser), one that will result in an injury to Tony’a main competition, Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver). That’s just one part of the story, as you’ll see. Craig Gillespie directs a script by Steven Rogers. The supporting cast includes Lynne Ashe, Bobby Cannavale, Jason Davis, McKenna Grace, Julianne Nicholson, Anthony Reynolds, Ricky Russert, and more. Nicolas Karakatsanis handles the cinematography, while the score is by Peter Nashel. Some top notch editing is on display too, courtesy of Tatiana S. Riegel.
This is one of the best movies of the year. Some have labeled it “Goodfellas for the world of figure skating” and that’s a really apt comparison. It’s dark, funny, and even moving. The highlight though, is the one two punch of Janney and Robbie. The former delivers a scene stealing turn that’s the definition of a perfect supporting performance. If Best Supporting Actress doesn’t end up going to Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird, it’ll go to Janney for this work. The latter, given a harder job, turns in her best showcase to date. Robbie is empathetic, tough as nails, and utterly compelling. She too is well deserving of an award, this one in Best Actress.
Awards wise, assuming new kid on the block Neon can avoid being shut out in part for being a fresh distributor, I, Tonya should be a minor force in the race. Look for the biggest Oscar effort to be in Best Picture, Best Actress (for Robbie), Best Supporting Actress (for Janney), Best Original Screenplay (for Rogers) and Best Makeup & Hairstyling. Next in line are pushes in Best Director (for Gillespie), Best Supporting Actor (for Hauser and Stan), and Best Film Editing. Finally, if they want to go nuts, you can throw in Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design as well. Supporting Actress for Janney seems like a nomination lock at least, with the same more or less being said for Robbie in Actress. The rest will all depend on how the precursors continue to go for the flick.
Starting on Friday, audiences can see what critics have been raving about for a few months now when I, Tonya opens. It will easily crack my top ten list for this year, even almost assuredly making the top three, let alone the top five. It’s that good. Believe the hype out of TIFF, ladies and gentlemen. This is the sort of biopic that gives you hope that not all biopics need to be stuffy and dry. Tonya Harding may not have seemed like the most exciting person for this treatment, but Robbie gives her such cinematic life. See this one immediately. You can thank me later…
Be sure to check out I, Tonya, in theaters starting this weekend!