If you haven’t seen “I, Tonya” yet, by all means go see it. The bottom line is that it is probably the most realistic figure skating movie I’ve ever seen.
The movie accurately shows what the figure skating world is really like; Tonya Harding just didn’t quite fit into that figure skating world. She never looked like a prim and proper ice princess and she certainly did not act like one. She fixed cars, used inappropriate language, smoked, and associated with the “wrong people.” BUT…she did love to skate and could jump.
When I arrived to see “I, Tonya” for a Tuesday matinee showing, the line to purchase tickets for the movie was terribly long and the theater almost sold out. Everyone in that very long line didn’t want to see anything but “I, Tonya.”
Ice skating was given a tremendous boost in 1994 because of Tonya Harding. It would seem that in 2018 that Harding would be forgotten, but instead, this movie and the Thursday, January 11, 2018 ABC television interview “Truth and Lies” with Tonya Harding that can now be viewed on-demand is again putting figure skating into the spotlight. It is no accident that this film is in the theaters right before the upcoming Winter Olympic Games.
Actress Margot Robbie does a tremendous job playing Tonya Harding. If actors and actresses were judged she would receive a perfect 6.0 score for her performance in “I, Tonya.” Not only is the acting superb, but so is the skating. The emotion and energy involved in an elite athlete’s performance is done in such a way that the viewer feels like she is part of Harding; the viewer somehow gets to be inside Tonya body and soul and the viewer feels Harding’s emotions and skates with her! In addition, actress Allison Janney’s portrayal of Harding’s mother is so, so good. I have a feeling that both actresses may receive Academy Award nominations.
Paul Walter Hauser, the actor who plays Shawn Eckhardt looks and acts so much like the real Eckhardt that one may believe in the resurrection of the dead. (The real Shawn Eckhardt died in 2007 at the age of 40.) It is obvious that Eckhardt was delusional. The movie gives the message that Harding was a victim of her ex-husband’s involvement with this crazy person who decided that “a wack on the knee” was the only way to really make sure Harding could win.
In my opinion, some of the scenes in the movie can’t be “quite true.” For example, there is scene where Tonya’s mother stands in the middle of an ice rink smoking and interrupts coach Diane Rawlinson’s Learn to Skate class at a mall rink in Portland and demands that Rawlinson take little four year of Tonya on as a private student. I don’t believe that actually happened since an ice rink would never allow a parent to just walk on the ice and talk to an instructor in the middle of a class. There’s another scene where Tonya skates over to the judging panel and swears at them when they are critical of her competition dress and skating style; there is no way a skater would return to the ice after a performance delaying the next skater’s performance. There may have been discussions or critiques off the ice, but I don’t believe Harding used foul language in front of figure skating officials.
In 1994, when all the “hype” surrounded figure skater Tonya Harding, I was one of the few people in skating that paid little attention to what may have been the biggest scandal in ice skating history. At the time, I was dealing with an ice rink closing in Colorado Springs right in the middle of the the 1994 Winter Olympic Games. That was my main focus at the time since I had so many students wanting lessons despite the rink’s sudden closure. The little rink that closed was packed with skaters because of Tonya Harding and the day it was announced that the rink closed, I went to a mid-day public session at another rink that was usually deserted, but instead it was mobbed. Now I understand why.
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