(director: Craig Gillespie; screenwriter: Steven Rogers; cinematographer: Nicolas Karakatsanis; editor: Tatiana Riegel; music: Peter Nashel; cast: Margot Robbie(Tonya Harding), Allison Janney (LaVona Golden), Sebatian Stan (Jeff Gillooly), Paul Walter Hauser(Shawn Eckhardt), Bobby Cannavale (Hard Copy Producer), Caitlin Carver (Nancy Kerrigan), Jason Davis (Al Harding), Julianne Nicholson (Diane Rawlinson), Mckenna Grace (Young Tonya Harding), Anthony Reynolds (Derrick); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Bryan Unkeless/Margot Robbie/Tom Ackerley/Steven Rogers; Neon Films; 2017)

Absurdly funny but tragic fictionalized ice-skater biopic based on a true story.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Absurdly funny but tragic fictionalized ice-skater biopic based on a true story. Director Craig Gillespie (“Mr. Woodcock”/”Lars and the Real Girl”) skates free and loose without falling on the ice as he makes the best of this tawdry tabloid story adapted to the screen by Steven Rogers. It’s fun in a trashy way, as parental abuse and a criminal act of violence can be.

It recreates an unbelievable stupid act of violence that took place in Detroit, in January, at the USA figure skating trials for the 1994 Olympics. Margot Robbie wonderfully plays the gifted figure ice-skater but unscrupulous and unrefined redneck Tonya Harding, from Portland, Oregon, whose origins are from a low-life working-class family. Her weird, unloving, mean-spiriteded and pushy waitress mom (Allison Janney), was married six times with Tonya her fifth child from her fourth husband. The abusive monster mom dominated the story, as Janney gave a chilling catchy performance. Tonya’s moronic and obnoxious mustache wearing ex-hubby Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) and his doltish momma’s boy best friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser), and two accomplices sabotage the career of Tonya’s American Olympic rival, Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), by one of the accomplices, Derrick (Anthony Reynolds), breaking her kneecap at the rink of the Detroit trials. The hokey sad story, a black comedy, is based on the candid interviews with the moronic participants that are re-created here with zeal. In this over-the-top biopic, we follow the deeply flawed Tonya from her first audition on ice at age four through her 1994 days as a tabloid head-liner.

Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy will be defined by the Kerrigan incident. The film gives us insight into Tonya’s abusive upbringing and her abusive relationship with her loser husband, and the failure of being loved. It’s good to know she has recovered from her light sentence and being banned from skating, as we learn in the end credits she’s now a landscaper and happily married.

REVIEWED ON 12/6/2017 GRADE: B  https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/