What You Need To Know - June 22, 2018

I, Tonya: What You Need To Know
by James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

I, Tonya: What You Need To Know

Readers old enough to remember the 1994 Winter Olympics, held in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer, might also remember the dramatic events surrounding the USA's women's figure skating team that took place in the build-up to the tournament. Just a few weeks before the tournament was due to begin, Nancy Kerrigan, one of the USA's top competitors, was attacked after a training session by an assailant later identified as Shane Stant.

It later transpired that Stant had been hired by Jeff Gillooly, then-husband of Kerrigan's USA teammate and domestic rival Tonya Harding, with the intention of breaking Kerrigan's leg in order to force her to pull out of the tournament. However, despite being struck above the knee with a police baton, Kerrigan's leg was bruised but not broken, allowing her to recover and compete in the Winter Olympics the following month.

Although Harding claimed to know nothing about the planned attack, she was subsequently found guilty of hindering the police investigation. However, her trial was postponed allowing her to compete in the Olympics alongside her rival, where Kerrigan won the silver medal and Harding placed 8th in the competition. In the meantime, however, the story became a feeding frenzy for the media, with Harding firmly cast as the story's vengeful villain. Harding was subsequently sentenced to a three years probation, community service and a $100,000 fine, as well as being handed a life ban from figure skating.

In January this year, Harding's story was brought to the big screen in a new film written by PS I Love You screenwriter and this week I, Tonya is set to arrive in stores. Here's everything you need to know...


Who's in it?

Margot Robbie tackles the role of Tonya Harding, with a supporting cast that includes Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly, Caitlin Carver as Nancy Kerrigan and an Oscar-winning performance from Allison Janney as Harding's mother, LaVona Golden. The film also features appearances from Bobby Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson and Paul Walter Hauser.


And who's directing?

Craig Gillespie is the man behind the lens on this one. His previous stints in the director's chair have produced films such as Fright Night, Million Dollar Arm and Lars and the Real Girl.


What's the plot?

The film takes us through Tonya's childhood in Portland, Oregon, where she takes up ice skating at a young age at the insistence of her overbearing and often abusive mother LaVona. Eventually, when Tonya begins to show a natural aptitude for the sport, LaVona pulls her out of high school so she can concentrate on her skating career, arranging for Tonya to train with coach Diane Rawlinson (Nicholson).

Tonya begins to earn national recognition for her skating talents but struggles to shed her image as “white trash”, often being marked down by judges as a result of her homemade costumes and unorthodox choices of music for her routines. At age 15, Tonya begins dating the 18-year old Jeff Gillooly, eventually marrying him despite her mother's opinions of him in order to move out of her house, but it isn't long before Jeff also becomes physically abusive towards her. LaVona criticises Tonya for putting up with the abuse, but Tonya points to her own abusive behaviour and the pair stop communicating.

Despite the problems in her personal life, Tonya's career continues to advance and after hiring a new coach she becomes the first female skater to complete two triple axel jumps at the 1992 Winter Olympics, but is marked down for her landings and finishes just outside the medals behind fellow American Nancy Kerrigan, who claims the bronze. Tonya believes her failure to make the podium is effectively the end of her career and seeks work back in Portland as a waitress, but her former coach Rawlinson encourages her to compete in Lillehammer.

It emerges that Tonya will once again be up against Kerrigan and shortly before the tournament begins Harding receives an anonymous death threat. Gillooly suspects Kerrigan's camp are responsible and arranges for his friend and Tonya's self-appointed bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt to return the favour. However, Eckhardt hires two men to go one step further and put Kerrigan out of the competition altogether, but the attempt is botched and soon the media are all over the story...


Does it deliver?

Even if you're already familiar with the notorious incident involving Nancy Kerrigan, I, Tonya is a fascinating take on the story and attempts to put the actions of those involved into context. Some have criticised the film as trying to recast Harding as the victim and it is perhaps unsurprising to hear that Nancy Kerrigan is not one of those endorsing I, Tonya's version of events, but to be fair to director Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers even some of the inaccuracies of the initial reporting are parodied here in some fourth-wall-breaking interludes.

Regardless of your stance on Harding's innocence, Robbie and Janney deliver some utterly magnetic performances here and Gillespie's film is truly gripping throughout.

I, Tonya
I, Tonya Craig Gillespie

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