Interesting is a word often associated with faint praise and diplomatic deflection. “What do you think of my new hair cut, dear ?” “Hmm, interesting…” Yet interesting is the word that was foremost in my mind in reaction to I, Tonya on Saturday, and I am not just trying to be polite. Maybe thought-provoking is a word that can stand in for interesting. This whole movie was about different ways of looking at things.
I knew in advance that the structure of the movie would offer challenges to the nature of truth, especially around media and celebrity. But I never expected to experience such a contrast between the reality of the scenes played out on the screen in front of us, and the idea that what we were seeing might not actually be the truth - the ultimate instance being Tonya chasing her husband with a shotgun and shooting at him while calmly explaining to the camera “This never actually happened…”
If, as Churchill said, history is written by the victors, then it could feel depressing to feel that the story of the rise and fall of Tonya Harding was simply defined and handed down by a voracious, ratings-obsessed media, while Tonya’s side of things expressed here was conveniently ignored. And yet, and yet… her propensity for narcissistic self-delusion and blame avoidance casts long shadows of doubt over her version - to the extent that I even began to doubt the blacker than black depiction of a loveless mother, cruel to the point of sadism. I mean really, could anyone really be THAT bad, except in the mind of a self-serving egomaniac ?
The central question - was Tonya in on the plot, or was it all the work of Oregon's own Laurel and Hardy - her hapless husband and his dumbass buddy - was wonderfully ambiguous. Tonya’s revelation that Jeff is the culprit is very convincing, but then so were so many other things we know to be untrue.
The fact that this tapestry of doubtful truth and braggardly bluster should be so thought provoking was largely due to the excellent screenplay, but would not have succeeded without the utter conviction of the main players. Allison Janney was merciless as the vicious LaVona Harding and well deserved the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and Margot Robbie conveyed Tonya Harding with such artfulness that I don’t know what adjectives to use - manipulative, or manipulated ? Naive, or cunning ? By the end, I truly couldn’t tell. With all the players having told their versions of the story, its too much to hope that a definitive truth will ever come out. Now, that would be interesting…