Stars: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson
While this biopic of the scandalised skater Tonya Harding sports a pair of fine central performances, an unappealing whiff of condescension hangs over the proceedings. Robbie, who also produced, plays the titular figure, a working class woman pushed into a career in figure skating by her domineering, stern and abusive mother LaVona (Janney). Her homemade, gaudy outfits inspire sneers in the snooty skating classes she attends. Against her mother’s wishes she marries boyfriend, Jeff Gillooley (Stan), a relationship that proves equally dysfunctional. Still, despite her humble beginnings, Harding goes on to become the US champion, as well as the silver medalist in the world championship in 1991.
Then, after losing in 1992 she goes back to her job as a waitress. Her trainer Diana (Nicholson) persuades her to have another crack in the 1994 winter Olympics, but Jeff, in a wrongheaded attempt to support his wife, plans to have death threats sent to Tonya’s closest rival Nancy Kerrigan. Unfortunately, the heroically stupid hoods Jeff hires, misunderstand his instructions and physically assault Kerrigan. The picture vacillates between feminist retelling and blue collar piss-take, with director Gillespie relishing a little too much the bad taste, scuzzy Portland environs. The upbeat kitschy soundtrack is fun, but mainly deployed as a lazily ironic counterpoint to the tawdry goings on onscreen. Robbie wisely plays it straight and sincere, impressively doing her own skating, with the more challenging stunts seamlessly rendered with special effects. And Janney is as funny as she is formidable as the blunt and misanthropic LaVona.