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“I, Tonya” shows Olympics’ flip-side

Updated: Apr 17, 2018


Margot Robbie earned an Oscar nomination for her performance as Tonya Harding. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)


Blu-ray, DVD and Digital copy; 2017; R for pervasive language, violence and some sexual content/nudity; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu

Best extra: The 16-minute "Behind the Scenes" feature

ALLISON JANNEY's impressive resumé includes Emmy awards ("The West Wing," "Mom," "Masters of Sex"), Tony nominations ("A View From the Bridge," "9 to 5: The Musical") and, this month, the Oscar for best supporting actress.

But her award-winning performance as LaVona Golden, the chain-smoking, foul-mouthed, abusive mother of vilified figure skater Tonya Harding, presented its own challenges, not the least being that she's "one of the cruelest people I've ever played," Janney says in the "Behind the Scenes" feature.

Allison Janney won an Oscar for her performance as Tonya's mother.

Playing a real person is no walk in the park either, an assignment that was more daunting because she and screenwriter Steven Rogers ("Stepmom"), an old friend who wrote the role for Janney, couldn't hunt down LaVona to talk with her. What did that leave? "Pretty much Tonya's experience of her mother and artistic license."

It was more than enough -- LaVona, who, Harding claimed, once threw a steak knife at her, is as reprehensible as she is hilarious.

Director Craig Gillespie also manages a neat trick, balancing empathy and humor like he did in the under-appreciated "Lars and the Real Girl." That was no easy feat either. Harding, he said last year, has been the "poster child as the villain and a punchline" since her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly hired a thug to bash the knee of rival Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. It is such a crazy, complicated, powerful story, but it was simply told in the media at the time," Gillespie said when the movie was released. "I thought this was a real opportunity … to look at her as a human being and not as a tabloid headline. I also wanted to make a bit of a commentary on the media and how we churn up people's lives and then move on in the most simplistic way."

Center, Sebastian Stan plays Tonya's ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, who hired a thug to bash the knee of rival Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Framing the story around Rogers' outlandish, contradictory interviews with Harding (played by Oscar nominee Margot Robbie, "The Wolf of Wall Street") and Gillooly (Sebastian Stan, Bucky Barnes in the "Captain America" movies), Gillespie lands a triple axel. "I, Tonya" is a blast.

It looks darned good, too. Gillespie and cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis ("Bullhead") create a kind of gritty ambience that suits the story without taking away from the mostly consistent detail. Colors are subdued in some sequences and pop in others. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track leaves room for the dialogue, a tailor-made soundtrack that includes Heart ("Barracuda"), Bad Company ("Shooting Star") and Cliff Richard ("Devil Woman") and even a bit of surround goodness in the skating scenes.

Besides the "Behind the Scenes" feature, extras include a decent commentary with the likable Gillespie, deleted scenes and trailers.

- Craig Shapiro

Movie Trailer



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