Allison Janney (LaVonna Fay Golden) rightly won the 2018 best supporting actor Oscar for a stunning performance throughout I, Tonya. She’s the horror show mother of Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) who’s been cultivated since early childhood to be a champion ice skater. Her mother’s persistent vile language and alienating behaviour goads Tonya into excellence. At no point does Tonya gets praise or anything that could be described as nurturing. Janney is a Tiger Mother. Tonya is her creation, her masterpiece and anything less than perfection is dismissed as loser effort.
As biopics go this is slightly better than OK. Janney is outstanding but the subsiduary characters are caricatures to the point that they appear to be members of a Dickensian human zoo. Maybe they exist but really at the end of the day they neither horrify or fascinate. What’s fascinating is why they’re there in the first place.
Like novels by Dickens they’re meant to illustrate a point. And the point is? That American working-class people are sub-humans with ape-like lifestyles. I, Tonya is a unique attempt by Hollywood to grapple with the working-class. They’ve ‘done’ most aspects of American life but an out and out film about the working-class is unique. And Hollywood finds them horrifying. Tonya’s husband is a wife abusing half-wit, his friend is a gorilla who hasn’t been house trained, the person hired to hurt Tonya’s middle-class rival is so incompetent he couldn’t find an exit after the attack and so on. And Janney! On one level- the level where Oscar’s are awarded- she’s magnificent on another level she’s so nihilistically hateful as to be another species altogether.
I, Tonya is vile. It has train crash fascination for the audience and the soundtrack is pure product placement.
Why you should watch this film: Allison Janney is wonderful
Why you shouldn’t watch this film: It’s an onslaught on the American working-class
An alternative review disagrees with me: https://www.wsj.com/articles/i-tonya-review-we-fascinated-1512686394