“America: They want someone to love, but they want someone to hate.” So opens our first look (and listen) at Margot Robbie in character as disgraced ex-figure skating champion Tonya Harding, introducing us via gravelly voiceover to the pitch-black wonder that is Craig Gillespie’s “I, Tonya.” The film’s first trailer appropriately sells Harding’s status as an outsider — and Robbie’s uncanny ability to slip inside the mind of one of America’s most misunderstood villains — plus its delightfully off-kilter tone.
While the film inevitably leads up to the Nancy Kerrigan knee-smashing that forever marred Harding’s legacy, but “I, Tonya” is also a “Rashomon”-influenced biopic that digs deep to find the truth about Harding and her life, painful as it so often was. “I, Tonya” also stars Allison Janney as Harding’s unhinged mother LaVona Golden and Sebastian Stan as her punchline-ready ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, along with a number of stellar supporting turns from Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, and Mckenna Grace as a young Harding.
Out of TIFF, where the film premiered just last month, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich wrote: “Fun enough and full of uncommonly dynamic skating sequences (Robbie is a hockey player and noted New York Rangers fan, after all) and larger-than-life performances, ‘I, Tonya’ is more than the trashy pop time machine that audiences might expect…Gillespie’s biopic sticks the landing because it never forgets one of its very first lines: Tonya Harding is America, and she always has been.”
The film was just this morning nominated for a pair of Gotham Awards, including Best Feature and Best Actress for Robbie.
At TIFF, Gillespie told us all about his quest to make sure the film rightly contends with Harding’s legacy and public persona. “I feel like we’ve done a very honest portrayal,” he said. “When I set out to make the film, she’s been such a villain and a punchline in our society for so long, and I loved that challenge to just change that perspective…by the end of the movie, we should empathize with her. I know it’s a tall order with such a huge public persona that we have, but I really felt it was possible with Margo’s performance, with this script.”
And what does Harding think about the final film? “She was actually happy with it,” Gillespie told us with a grin. Audiences will be, too, because there’s nothing else quite like “I, Tonya” hitting screens this year. It’s wholly original, just like the woman who inspired it.
Check out the first trailer for “I, Tonya” below:
“I, Tonya” will hit theaters in New York City and Los Angeles on December 8.