Thursday, October 19, 2017

The "I, Tonya" Captures a Notorious Moment in Olympics History with Cattiness

Scene from I, Tonya

The presence of sports figures in everyday life are inevitable. There are a few that stand out as being excellent at their craft, turning it into a physical art form. However, there are those few who are remembered for the opposite reasons. Journeyman director Craig Gillespie has made a movie called I, Tonya, which chronicles the infamous career of Tonya Harding and the one event that made her a staple in Olympics history. The first teaser shows just how trashy and petty a movie about Harding should be. It doesn't give much, but it does have a ferocity that captures a potential Best Actress nominee in Margot Robbie. If nothing else, she sure looks the part.

Despite being the crowd pleasing genre of our times, sports movies don't seem to do well at the Oscars. Sure, there are a handful of movies that have done the subgenre proud (both Rocky and Million Dollar Baby are boxing movies that won Best Picture), but it's rare for them to stand a chance against more traditional dramas. Even last month's Battle of the Sexes doesn't seem like a sure bet for Oscars despite featuring last year's Best Actress winner in Emma Stone (La La Land). So what exactly gives I, Tonya any edge? It's tough to say, though there's something promising about casting Margot Robbie in the lead role.

Robbie has had a pretty solid career since 2013's The Wolf of Wall Street, where she managed to play competitively and memorably opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. She has seemed overdue for some Oscar love since, even having a memorable economics lecture scene in Best Picture nominee The Big Short. She also has starred in the successful (but not so great) Suicide Squad, where she got countless raves as Harley Quinn. I, Tonya isn't her only 2017 Oscar season movie, as Goodbye Christopher Robin also features her in a major role. Still, there's plenty to suggest that I, Tonya is at least going to be the more fun of her potential Oscar films, and possibly works as a narrative not dissimilar to Jennifer Lawrence's 2012 run, where Lawrence became an overnight sensation and won an Oscar as part of a narrative. Robbie has that "narrative" pretty well established by this point.

Check out the teaser below:

Looks fun. Here's the plot description according to IMDb:
Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises among the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the sport is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.
In all honesty, I am mostly covering this teaser because I, Tonya has been a film playing festivals to a pretty solid chatter. I do think that on paper it sounds a bit too trashy for The Academy to embrace, but I'm also fascinated by the potential Robbie Oscar nomination. She has played strong and confident women, and there's something to her diction here that's appealing. It may be the familiar catty antagonist, which in some ways reminds me of The Bronze, but there's something alluring about how the teaser balances dark themes amid a negligent sense of comedy. It's been awhile since there's been a good ice skating movie (Blades of Glory?), and I do hope that there is one out there. 

I do intend to cover the full trailer when it is released. However, I do think that there's plenty intriguing about this teaser, which presents a notorious event in sports history from the antagonist's point of view. This could be the film that gets Robbie into the race, and that's exciting unto itself. Also, Gillespie is a pretty good journeyman director and I feel could make a real crowd pleaser. My concern is just that this story is too ugly and awful to make I, Tonya anything but cynical farce. I hope that I'm wrong, yet the trailer does little to suggest otherwise. It's good, but I need more evidence that this is the Oscar film to beat.  

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