“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

I, Tonya

From the naming convention that brought you I, ROBOT and I, FRANKENSTEIN comes I, TONYA. I, Vern, was concerned about this one from the second the production company logos started. Obviously I’m all for movies kicking off with a blast of funk, but I couldn’t see how such music represented Tonya Harding, the scandal-scarred bad girl of Olympic figure skating, icon of early ’90s teased bangs, discussed in this movie as going to a Richard Marx concert, disparaged for her allegedly low class music choices in competitions (“Sleeping Bag” by ZZ Top), declaring herself a redneck, marrying a white man who wears a turtleneck under a cardigan.

Okay, they got a Chicago song on there, I buy that. But Violent Femmes? Siouxsie and the Banshees covering Iggy Pop? And yes, there’s a prominent use of “Spirit in the Sky.” All movies that aspire to hipness have “Spirit in the Sky.”

Throughout the movie these wall-to-wall needle drops never said to me “This is the soul of Tonya Harding,” but instead “Guys, this is like BOOGIE NIGHTS! This is like GOODFELLAS! Right Guys? It’s like Scorsese!” An Entertainment Weekly  interview with music supervisor Susan Jacobs confirms that she sees it as “the soundtrack of AMERICAN HUSTLE or a Scorsese film.” She says they chose ’70s and early ’80s music because “there’s a warmth to the ’70s that does not exist to the ’80s and ’90s.” Sorry Richard Marx.

It’s a small thing. Most people shouldn’t care. But it felt false to me, and kept me a little skeptical.

Strike 2 is also right at the beginning: fake interviews with actors portraying real people. I’ve always hated that approach. Buddy, if you think a documentary is a better way to tell this story then maybe make a documentary? If you hired actors you should let them act it out in such a way that we get the idea without them having to tell us what to think. At least, that’s how I was raised. It didn’t help that one of the fake interviewees is Bobby Cannavale (SNAKES ON A PLANE) as a tanned and very-fond-of-himself former Hard Copy producer inviting us to laugh at these stupid people he’s gonna tell us about that he and us are obviously so much better than that we can hardly believe it. The large opening weekend crowd at the Uptown took him up on the offer, condescendingly chuckling at everything before any jokes even happened.

An early laugh that is a joke line: that character explains what Hard Copy was (a sleazy, sensationalistic news show) and says that the rest of the media complained about them, then became them. Huge laugh. Take that, the media. But along with accepting his criticism of the modern media landscape we’re also accepting some gum-chewing dickhead who helped create that and isn’t ashamed of it as a reasonable guy to tell us this story. You’re some character in NIGHTCRAWLER but you’re pretending to be our voice of reason? Fuck you, dude.

I love this poster.

Luckily, it’s a trap. I think it might be the intentional design of screenwriter Steven Rogers (not Captain America – the guy who wrote HOPE FLOATS and STEPMOM) and director Craig Gillespie (MR. WOODCOCK, LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, FRIGHT NIGHT) to lure people in with this winky shit and then pivot to actual sympathy. If not, Margot Robbie (THE LEGEND OF TARZAN) pulled it off anyway. She’s so outstanding as gun-toting, engine fixing, triple-axeling Harding that I doubt I was the only one completely wrapped up in the point-of-view of this infamous tabloid villainess. It’s a tragedy about a little girl whose only dream is to ice skate and how that dream is torn away and stomped on when she’s barely an adult, and now she’s still alive and that was a million years ago but people still froth at the mouth when her name comes up. The movie makes it quirky, Robbie makes it devastating.

Even the fake interview format I hate so much is arguably redeemed by a gut stab of a moment when Robbie-as-older-Tonya looks into the camera and accuses the audience – us, you, me – of being complicit in abusing her. And I didn’t think she was wrong. I remember how we thought of her back then. To me she was a symbol of how crazy the world was getting. She wasn’t a person.

It’s a bumpy ride. Scenes about disappointment (her dad leaving) and abuse (fiancee Jeff Gillooly [Sebastian Stan, RICKI AND THE FLASH] bashing her head against a wall) are cut with ironic music or grim fourth-wall-breaking commentary that could be distancing or glib. Instead their seeming inappropriateness made them more effectively traumatic for me.

Jeff is a loser and a creep, but at least you see the sweet side of him that got her into this mess. If her mom (Allison Janney, GET ON UP) ever acts nice, though, for sure it’s a set up. She’s more emotionally abusive than physical, and that’s saying something, because she throws a knife into her!

At her best, Mom is a pushy ally in the war against classism in the figure skating world. By definition a competition is elitist, but Tonya can be a demonstrably superior skater who gets lower scores because of “presentation” – she can’t afford fancy costumes and has to make them herself. When her coach (Julianne Nicholson, BLACK MASS) says she needs a fur coat she gets one made of rabbits she kills herself. She’s getting docked for something she oughta get extra credit for.

I don’t know, maybe you guys are all figure skating fanatics, but personally the only reason I know who she is is because of the kneecapping of her fellow American skater Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver, PAPER TOWNS). Eventually the fake-interviewees consent to explain “the incident” as if they’re gonna rush through it just to get it over with. Instead, the movie sort of turns into a mini FARGO as Jeff and his moronic friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) instigate a pre-Olympics dirty tricks campaign to give Tonya an edge over Nancy. The way the movie tells it, Tonya seems to have knowledge of a plan to scare Kerrigan with a death threat letter, but doesn’t take it seriously and has no idea that wannabe “counter-espionage expert” Shawn decides to pay two “operatives” to assault her.

For the attack, the filmatism audaciously switches to a closeup of the nervous attacker (Ricky Russert, Banshee)’s face as he sneaks in, finds her, hits her, runs, is locked in, has to break a glass door. You can sense his heart beating out of control, him nearly choking on his breath. Feeling that terror of going through with it milks my human empathy for this guy  I’ve never seen before who’s doing this horrible thing.

Shawn is a really funny character, Jeff’s dumb sidekick who lives in his mom’s basement and still thinks people will believe him when he insinuates a black ops past like Seagal did in early interviews. He was described in the media as “Harding’s bodyguard,” and I think it’s a funny detail that in the movie they never show him actually being a bodyguard. Makes him seem like even more of a jackass. In this version, the assault on Kerrigan is him taking the initiative to go further even than Jeff wanted. I don’t know if that’s wishful thinking on the part of the real Gillooly when interviewed by the screenwriter, but it sure makes Shawn into a good, aggravating villain.

This also helps make Jeff into a more dimensional character than he could’ve been, because he gets in over his head too. The role is kind of a boon for Stan, because I always feel like if that guy is a good actor he never gets a chance to shine. For example Bucky Barnes in the CAPTAIN AMERICA series is a really cool idea for a character, but spends most of his time as a hollow mind control victim. Is there some kid somewhere whose favorite super hero is The Winter Soldier? I doubt it. Here he gets to play this guy who’s a piece of shit but he makes us not hate him every time he’s on screen. Just most of the times.

But most of all, this movie is a great moment for Robbie, as lead actress and producer. She was good when I first saw her in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, better in the mess that was SUICIDE SQUAD, but I would never have guessed she’d go this far this fast. Actually, all three of these characters are women who get dragged down by their shitbag men, and try to find their strength in different ways. Robbie finds humanity and middle-finger-to-the-word rebel appeal in the strangest places. And that’s not even taking into account that she learned how to ice skate for this shit! Some of the FX used to put her face on a stunt double (I’m assuming) are incredible.

* * *

I’ve seen some random internet people disgusted that there’s a sympathetic Tonya Harding movie, remembering the wicked witch of the rink and her crimes against humanity a quarter century ago. They seem convinced that she should be in some supermax somewhere preparing for a match against Boyka. This is a sign of the effectiveness of these media frenzies back then, because think about it: at worst, she knew her asshole ex-husband hired a guy to hit her rival on the leg. The victim survived and healed up fast enough to win a silver medal at the Olympics, make a ton of money and host Saturday Night Live (although that was embarrassing). In any version of this, Harding was only 23 years old and the attack was arranged by her older, controlling, abusive husband. She’s not exactly Charles Manson.

I’m not saying you have to like her. I’m not sure I do. If she only seemed sorry about the whole thing maybe the world would be nicer to her. Maybe then she could’ve become buds with Kerrigan and nobody could knock her anymore.

But I looked it up, and the 2014 Olympic champion was Adelina Sotnikova, who wasn’t even born when this shit went down. Is this really a grudge worth holding on to? A sin so unforgivable that we can’t show Harding a little human sympathy for what she went through? People have been forgiven for worse crimes.

 

This isn’t in the movie, but for her Olympic routine at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994, Harding skated to the JURASSIC PARK theme. And maybe she’s like those dinosaurs. She didn’t ask to be created, she’s just being herself, if she did something bad she still deserves dignity. I have no idea if she had more involvement in the attack than she copped to. But there’s something nicely humane about a movie like this saying look, she’s not a hero or a villain, she’s a complicated, messy human being. She had a rough life, she made bad choices, she was also incredibly talented, and did amazing things. Maybe her lack of discipline fucked her up at the Olympics, but then again an incredible discipline got her there in the first place. Some people liked her brashness, some people didn’t. She definitely fit a certain stereotype exploited to disparage the “trailer trash” of the world, and that sucks, no matter her level of guilt. She’s an interesting person, at least, and makes for an interesting movie. I, liked it.

P.S. This review is the first in a trilogy. (Don’t worry, I’m not gonna review the “Tonya and Jeff’s Wedding Night” video.)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 at 11:54 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

42 Responses to “I, Tonya”

  1. Crushinator Jones

    January 16th, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    You know, I think that social media is mostly bad, but I will say that you would never get the sort of complete one-sided media pile-on that you got with Harding nowadays. SOMEBODY on social media would tell you that she was getting unfairly judged for her home-made costumes. SOMEBODY would send you clips of her best performances. And of course Tonya would have a YouTube channel where she put her face up to the screen and gave her side of the story.

    I mean, when this scandal went down it was just a pounding, you couldn’t find hide nor hair of a Tonya apologist/supporter. Now things are different. I’m not sure if the sacrifice was worth it, but it should be acknowledged.

    Good review.

  2. This rant is not directed at Vern but has been about 25 years in the making.

    I just don’t know how to care about this movie. I don’t give a shit about the Olympics. I don’t really like any sports but I definitely don’t like whatever the hell field day bullshit they call these sports. Yay, that guy ran that way and jumped real far. Good for him, I’m sure it was difficult to do but I don’t know why anyone would want to watch him do it. I got all kinds of dumb shit I’m good at but I keep it to my damn self.

    Back then, all the Olympics were to me were a special breaking news report on something that didn’t apply to me that somehow preempted all of my favorite shows for two weeks straight. Nowadays it doesn’t matter as much, because I don’t watch TV. I’ll forget the Olympics are even happening. But back then, they were a lot harder to avoid. And that particular year, they were IMPOSSIBLE to avoid. It was just a nonstop barrage of this fuckin’ non-story that the world at large really wanted me to think was a big deal. I mean, it’s a story about one person I don’t give a shit about who was maybe mean to another person I don’t give a shit about, but not mean enough to actually make any difference either way in the outcome of the event I didn’t give a shit about. So now here we are, damn near three fucking decades later, and now there’s a whole new group of people with a blazing hot take on why I need to give a shit about something that didn’t matter then, doesn’t matter now, and it turns out nobody still knows what actually the fuck went down, but let’s all waste more of our lives fucking thinking about it.

    People hit each other with fucking crowbars all the time. Why is this one utterly ineffective crowbarring so goddamn fascinating?

    If I hate Tonya Harding for anything, it’s being part of the origin of one of the dumbest, most pointless pieces of mindless bullshit to ever sweep our national consciousness TWICE.

    It still looks better than that movie about the fashion designer with the much-too-fucking-young girlfriend who really shakes up his stuffy routine. Man, what a unique story that the world really needs right now.

    This year’s Oscar season is kind of pissing me off, you guys.

  3. That said, this incident did provide Heather Langenkamp with one of her few starring roles, thanks to her uncanny resemblance to Nancy Kerrigan. So that’s a silver lining.

    Trivia: Langenkamp was in the “Sleeping Bag” video. This shit just keeps coming back around, man.

  4. I’m not sure if this makes the story any more interesting, but I did catch a little bit of a 20/20 special recently (don’t judge), and I never really thought about the class aspects to the incident. I was a kid at the time of the whole hubbub, so of course it went straight over my head.

    Previously, I knew nothing about how Hardy was mocked for being “trailer trash.” And apparently Kerrigan is from Stoneham, MA, a very white and wealthy suburb of Boston. Just watching the present day interviews with Kerrigan and Hardy, you can tell by their demeanor that they had very different upbringings. Kerrigan is reserved and knows exactly what to say. She’s a consummate WASP. But Hardy is brash and not above bringing up decade old grudges and basically airing her dirty laundry in public. Anyways, I hadn’t thought of this incident in many years prior to the film’s release, and the documentary made me see the events in a slightly different light, enough for me to probably check out the movie when it hits DVD or streaming anyway.

  5. I don’t like how we are living in an age where people arent allowed to change or atone for shit they did in the past.

  6. Well, it’s just like I don’t watch boxing or wrestling either, but it’s an unusual career with colorful characters and unusual pressures. Crazy stuff happens, so it can make for interesting stories. Plus, this one has an incompetent crime element to it, like a little FARGO or Elmore Leonard thrown in.

  7. Predictions/hopes for the trilogy:
    1) DISASTER ARTIST is one of them, because Tommy = Tonya.
    2) LADY BIRD to complete trilogy of 90s/early 00’s period films
    3) More Vern historical revelations

  8. And all of this shit is indebted to I, CLAUDIUS.

  9. This was probably my most anticipated movie of the year and unfortunately one of the most disappointing. I just never really connected to what was going on, and (this may be the hottest of many hot takes around here), it sort of came off as the poor man’s Pain and Gain (I can’t believe I just wrote that). I mean, P&G covers much, much of the same territory – black comedy about unbelievably stupid criminals, heavy-handed commentary on misguided attempts to achieve the American Dream, based on a “true” story with unreliable narrators, wacky “this really did happen” fourth-wall breaking. And yes, between this and Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie is now the reigning queen of movies with painfully obvious needle-drops. (I’m pretty sure Suicide Squad also had Spirit in the Sky, because of course it had to). I’m shocked we didn’t get Sympathy for the Devil again.

    As someone who normally enjoys Allison Janney and was excited to see her win a Golden Globe for this, imagine how disappointed I was when her actual performance seemed as one-dimensionally abrasive and tiresome as R. Lee Ermey in Texas Chainsaw: The Beginning. It’s just over-dramatic cigarette smoking and wall-to-wall “shocking” Bad Santa-style one-liners (that my audience admittedly ate up) – perhaps Harding’s mom really was this cardboard, which is too bad since the whole point of this movie seems to be to give three dimensions to a one-dimensional villain (by putting all the blame on another one-dimensional villain!) Also on a side note: maybe we saw the movie projected differently but I thought the FX to paste Robbie’s head on the skating double were incredibly bad. Like Han shoots second, disembodied head bad. I know it’s a low budget movie so I’m not going to hold that against it, but I did think it was weird to actually hold such an obviously unfinished looking effect front-and-center during those fairly long scenes.

    I think my biggest problem is that it’s just hard to get emotionally invested in a movie that uses its “unreliable narrator” gimmick as an ironic shield (and excuse to paint people as cartoons). Besides the mother character, Shawn is shown as a complete moron (which the closing credits of the real Shawn do verify), but every single scene of him involves him comically stuffing his face with food and dribbling it all over himself for some reason. The movie seems to be saying “well, we can get away with these ridiculous over-the-top portrayals because this is all from Tonya’s POV, remember?” but then it wants it both ways where it’ll hint Tonya likes to blame everyone but herself for her problems. Which is something I find interesting and should be explored, but then the movie keeps flip-flopping and throws us a literally Rocky-esque “inspiring” ending that sorry, I can’t really get emotionally affected by, not because I hold some grudge against Harding or haven’t forgiven her or whatever, but because you literally just told me EVERYTHING I SAW IS PROBABLY NOT TRUE!

    I don’t want to sound like I hated it – it’s entertaining, I’ve still recommended it to people. Robbie is great as always, as is Stan. I just really wanted to like it more and (two hot takes in one post) I’m shocked to say the surprisingly solid Fright Night reboot is still my favorite Craig Gillespie film so far.

  10. renfield – I was kinda hoping The Bronze (the other Sebastian Stan Olympics comedy) would be part of the trilogy (never seen it but Vern reviewing it would be an excuse for me to finally get it off my DVR). Btw, I remember as a teenager renting the Tonya and Jeff’s wedding night video, I’m kinda surprised the movie didn’t get into that, especially since Jeff was the one who sold it to the press (which would have been an actual clear cut example of something being definitively not her fault unlike most of the he said/she said events of the movie).

  11. The movie has 2 unreliable narrators Tonya and Jeff. Maybe people who lived through tonya’s media pillorying found the turning it on the audience moment effective. For me, I just scoffed. She made the choices she did, and didn’t want to accept them. Some things she was more a victim of (her mother), some things were very complex (her domestic situation with Jeff), and others she just didn’t want to reckon with (e.g if you want to win, skate to different music, yes the class stuff is elitist and dumb at the same time that’s within your control.) I thought the movie also did a nice job of showing how singlemindness and drive, which is typically lauded in athletes, can also be a character flaw, particularly if someone isn’t surrounded by the right people. And the movie—again very Scorsese like—complicates things for anybody who wants to make everything about clear heroes and villains, which is what the sports and celebrity worlds often seem wrapped up in iconographing, humanity and complexity be damned.

    I think I’ve heard that they had to use cgi effects on the stunt doubles for some shots, since not many women even still can do a triple axel, and of those not many wanted to do it for the pay and in a movie associated with Tonya Harding (that part of the movie raising questions about how ridiculous her stigma and that part of the punishment is relative to her misdeeds seems to reaonate.)

  12. Somewhat off topic. I agree with the needle drop criticisms of this movie, and the time element. I have a similar issue with baby drivers needle drops. Those are great and less on the nose, but at the same time the music is clearly music that the director Edgar Wright grew up loving and planned for the scenes but Baby is younger than Wright. Baby probably would’ve listened to some hip hop or something growing up when he was supposedly growing up in the South.

  13. I decided to remove the story I told at the end of the review. I hoped it was interesting and relevant, but I realized if there was some slim chance that it would get somebody in trouble or bring up bad memories if the wrong person read it then it was not worth including.

  14. Mr Majestyk, you should have tried to live here when that olympic bullshit was going on! I tried to hide the best I could, but it was EVERYWHERE!

  15. I realize that I wrote Hardy instead of Harding in the above post. In case you were confused, every time you see Hardy, it equals Harding.

  16. Even with the “lets ugly her up a bit” make up attempt she still does not look the part at all. I’m guessing it’s really one of those cases where the actor nails “the essence” of the real life person they’re playing.

  17. Do they still release biopics with the name THE ___________ STORY, btw?

  18. I guess I can see the class element coming into play, but seriously, what Winter Olympics sports AREN’T classist? You think it’s cheap to luge? I’m pretty sure the winners in most of those sports are the people who can afford the most time on the incredibly expensive equipment and courses. That’s why white people invented winter sports in the first place.

  19. Well, did you watch COOL RUNNINGS? If you watched a bobsled movie you gotta be okay with a figure skating movie.

    (You don’t have to watch I, TONYA. I don’t think you would like it.)

  20. I think COOL RUNNING illustrates my point well. They came from a poor country and could not afford quality equipment. They lost and got laughed at, and then somebody made a movie about how inspirational it was so we could all pretend we aren’t huge assholes for laughing at them.

    As for the true crime aspect, this caper consists of one (1) botched assault that immediately got found out and the perpetrators arrested and justice prevailed and both parties went on to do exactly what they were gonna do beforehand with no consequences. Hardly the crime of the century. Maybe if Kerrigan accidentally ended up dead and they had to stuff her body in the snow machine at the stadium, then we’d have something. The only story to this story is how the media turned a whole bunch of nothing into a cash cow in an era when America was fat and happy and didn’t want to think about anything real. And now the movie is doing the same while pointing the fingers at us for watching it. And what, so fuckin’ Tonya Harding can get the last word? Like that’s something noble.

    Part of me thinks this whole thing is happening solely so normcore kids can make Pinterest pages of Margot Robbie in ugly 90s clothes.

    I’ll stop now. Please tell more interesting stories, Hollywood. You’re killing me here.

  21. Mr M, i’m not trying to convince you to see this movie either (i haven’t seen it yet and remain skeptical that i’ll like it), but fwiw: i love going to the movies and yet i live in a town where the only option for hundreds of miles in any direction is a 16-screen megaplex (a place where the threat of a boycott has successfully prevented The Shape Of Water from playing due to fears of its pro-bestiality messaging among the town’s more, uh, proactive Christians, to give you an idea), which means i sometimes wind up seeing movies that i don’t really have much natural interest in. and usually beforehand i feel a similar desire to the one you bring up— a need to find some sort of positive angle to go in with so i can feel at least a little invested. So, my point is, if I Tonya makes it up here, i guarantee you i’m going to see it despite the fact that i don’t care or know much about figure skating, and i definitely don’t feel any burning need to see Hollywood A-listers act this story out. i do, however, sincerely want to believe that Robbie is as good of an actor as everybody says she is. so far i’ve never quite bought her in anything i’ve seen her in, but if Vern bought her in this, i’m hoping this time i’ll be able see why she’s supposed to be such a major talent. so that’s how i, am finding a way to give a shit about this movie.

  22. I liked this much more than I expected to, even though it unabashedly bites Scorsese’s style (along with little nibbles at the Coen Brothers). If you’re going to steal, might as well steal from the best. And to underline the point that Vern keeps trying to make, this is not a sports movie and it’s not a crime movie (although it is about a famous crime involving Olympic athletes, so of course it has elements of each). This movie is primarily about the class structures of a country that refuses to admit it has class structures and it’s also about the early days of the tabloid tv journalism that eventually morphed into all of cable news which treats real, complicated people like they’re only either good guys or bad guys in a simplistic fairy tale. It’s interesting and timely and funny and Margot Robbie’s great in it. And I would go so far as to say it’s meaningful reminder about how to treat people for those of us who are old enough to remember when this happened and who thought of Tonya Harding as nothing more than the punchline a late night monologue joke.

  23. Stop the presses! There are currently in this country protests against The Shape of Water? And they’ve had some success? Well, I’ve certainly been in a coastal bubble.

  24. My biggest concern with seeing this is that the writer has written two of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life.

    I have nothing else to add.

  25. Which two because they all seem really bad.

  26. RBatty, nationwide protests might be putting it strongly — but yeah, if you google the movie title + bestiality, you can see the type of rhetoric fundamentalist Christians are being exposed to regarding the film. i’ve been living in interior Alaska for the past three+ years, and it’s been sobering to witness what happens (or doesn’t happen) in this town because of some Christian leaders leveraging the spending power of their congregations.

  27. Yeah, that’s the first I’ve heard of it and now I feel like an asshole for making that argument. Although I suppose it would be cool if they were passing out xeroxes of my review.

  28. When I first saw the trailers for The Shape of Water, I made the dumb joke, “Is that lady going to have sex with that fish man?” And then I found out that, yes, the lady does have sex with that fish man. And I’ll admit that made me a bit uncomfortable, but I’m still not planning on boycotting the film.

  29. emteem/Michael Mayket

    January 18th, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Breaking news, everybody! Mr. M doesn’t like the Olympics, or sports in general, and after holding it in for 25 years he had to let us all know! Why do people have to do and/or watch things he doesn’t understand or enjoy? It’s intolerable!

    I’m just joking. Mostly.

  30. Stern: The ones Vern cited: STEPMOM and HOPE FLOATS. STEPMOM I especially have a grudge against.

  31. Nah man, for whatever it’s worth, your argument was not an assholic one, Vern. Like, you saw the movie and critiqued its cinematic qualities thoughtfully; I don’t think anyone up here who’s worried about it corrupting innocent minds it can make either of those claims. Thanks to their efforts I haven’t had the chance to see it either, but knowing how breathlessly into his own ideas Del Toro can get, it doesn’t surprise me that he didn’t bother having the fish guy do more than eat a couple of eggs and watch a lady tap dance before he assumed audiences would buy the bond between them. Had you claimed the movie was Hollyweird’s latest ploy to intentionally lead the beloved lambs of Christ astray by introducing them to the irresistible pleasures of fish-sex, that would be more in line with the “argument” these folks are making.

  32. Grimgrinningchris

    January 18th, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Jack Handey is posting here now?

  33. Sternshein: Years ago John Waters was a guest on Rosanne Barr’s talk show (yes, that was a thing). He tried to carefully articulate his belief that people are capable of rehabilitation, his case study being a member of the Manson family, Leslie Van Houten, that he had formed a friendship with. Waters spent a significant amount of time visiting prisons and interacting with inmates. Barr interrupted him with a comment that amounts to: “I say kill them all and let them find rehabilitation in their next life,” a comment that was greeted with an outburst of applause and whooping worthy of a taping of Married With Children. It reminded me of those “Kill them all and let God sort them out” bumper stickers that were popular in the 1970s. The moral of the story is that I suspect “this age we’re living in” is probably something that’s always been with us and always will.

    Van Houten has been denied parole twenty times despite appearing to have been completely rehabilitated and shown profound remorse for her her crime; twice a parole board has recommended her release, recommendations that were overturned by Governor Jerry Brown. She was a mentally unstable 19 year old at the time of her arrest. She would have been executed if the California Supreme Court didn’t rule the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972.

  34. I just realized something: Heather Langenkamp made a whole documentary, I AM NANCY, trying to figure out why people cared more about Freddy, a remorseless killer and unrepentant villain, than her NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET character, a strong, intelligent, and resourceful heroine. And now, twentysomething years after she starred as Nancy Kerrigan, an innocent victim who rose above a senseless attack and relentless media barrage not of her own making to succeed in her chosen field and to defeat the personal demons instilled in her by events beyond her control, who gets the Oscar-bait biopic? Fuckin’ Tonya Harding, who may or may not be the villain of this story but she certainly isn’t the hero. How can the same shit happen to the same actress-turned-makeup effects artist twice?

  35. Nabroleon Dynamite

    January 27th, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Jareth Cutestory.

    Van Houten murdered wealthy, white, Hollywood types.

    She’s paying for that classism that I, Tonya critiques.

  36. “I think COOL RUNNING illustrates my point well. They came from a poor country and could not afford quality equipment. They lost and got laughed at, and then somebody made a movie about how inspirational it was so we could all pretend we aren’t huge assholes for laughing at them.”

    Very late to the party but apparently, the filmmakers made that all up.

    “One of the most fictionalized parts of Cool Runnings was the competition itself. The bobsled competition in the film consists of three individual runs held on three consecutive days, whereas in reality the Olympic bobsled competition consists of four runs – two runs a day held over two consecutive days. In the film, the Jamaicans are regarded as unwelcome outsiders to the Games by other countries (particularly East Germany) and ridiculed. In reality, the Jamaicans were treated as equals and there was no real animosity between the team and their competitors; in fact, the Jamaicans were aided by another team who lent them one of their backup sleds so they could qualify, so they did not have to buy another team’s spare sled.”

    … and there’s more where that came from.

    “Irving “Irv” Blitzer is a fictional character; the real team had several trainers, none of whom were connected to any cheating scandal.”

    and so on and so on.

  37. My conflict with I, Tonya is that it is released by Neon, the distributor co-owned by Tim League. At Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest, League had sheltered sexual predators like Harry Knowles, and his (rightly) chastised re-hiring of Devin Faraci led other women to come forward about abuse he’d failed to act on. He has since hired a consulting firm to craft public responses (loaded with plausible deniability) and Drafthouse is getting a lot of credit by their fans for holding conversations with women at Fantastic Fest and announcing their new code of conduct and reporting protocols, but seem to be ignoring the deeper issue, let alone holding the boss accountable (He’s on record in an e-mail asking a woman to keep quiet about her harassment to protect the brand.)

    The cast and creators of I, Tonya didn’t know about League’s other business. They just took the opportunity to get the movie made. And I REALLY hate that another accomplishment for women would be tarnished by a man’s misdeeds. But any success this movie enjoys will benefit Tim League. He’s not even donating to women’s groups or volunteering or making those superficial gestures to show contrition. It seems as bigger Hollywood fish got fried, most people forgot all about this Texas theater scandal.

    I realize sympathy for Harding, respect for Robbie and Janney, and the quality of the film may be more important so I’m not even saying they shouldn’t be celebrated. I just couldn’t reconcile this with League sitting back and earning money off it, so I didn’t even review or do interviews for the film and I plan to continue pulling my support of Neon films until this is addressed.

    I’m late to this since I’ve been away but I hope there’s still room for discussion on this thread.

  38. Fred, is there anything League could do to redeem himself in your mind? You know more about this than I do, but I was under the impression that the mistakes he made were not malicious in nature, that he had acknowledged them and was working to address them. What are they not doing that they need to do?

  39. Thanks Vern. There are a few things I think need to be addressed first:

    1. He should apologize directly to the woman he specifically asked to keep quiet to protect the brand. I believe he’s apologized to former employees for ignoring their complaints of assaults but this one is more than just a non malicious mistake.

    2. Donating Fantastic Fest and Drafthouse profits to sexual violence charities and putting in some volunteer time seems like a no brained and neither has been done.

    3. A truly accountable apology like Dan Harmon gave. Something to the extent of “I knew and I did nothing.” Not “I’ve let you down.” I don’t think he’ll get specific because it’s all about legal liability.

    4. Full transparency about what this consulting firm is advising them. It seems very suspicious to say “Don’t worry. We hired a consulting firm now. All good.”

    5. Reaching out to the people who no longer felt comfortable attending FF and Drafthouse theaters. So far they’ve only been addressing the loyal supporters who are still standing by them. And maybe that’s all they need. They can cut their losses with the women and men who feel unsafe there.

    6. Recusing himself from Neon would be a huge mitzvah but I don’t see anyone giving up that investment and profit. And it hasn’t hurt their films, so…

    My impression of the fallout from last year is all the people who want to keep going to Fantastic Fest are giving them a pass. No one has actually taken responsibility for wrongdoing. It’s been “Don’t worry. We’re fixinf it. Nothing to worry about here.”

  40. I watched this movie at the multiplex known as the usenet specifically because Neon distributed it.

    The thing is, I think the majority of viewers have no idea that Neon is Drafthouse, since I’ve yet to see one review of I, Tonya that makes any mention of it. Which it seems to me, is very much on purpose since the name change occurred during part one of the Faraci fallout.

  41. I personally liked this movie a lot and I may give more in a comment soon, or I may not. But I have wanted to say this ever since I saw it in theaters, which was only a couple of months ago: I could not help but think that the older version of Jeff Gillooly reminded me so much of David Yost as Billy from Power Rangers.

  42. So am I only one that thinks this is a straight comedy (and a really good one at that)? I’m very surprised by the review and comments here as I thought the stylistic choices were one of the strong points. I did not even notice any of the music but I generally wouldn’t unless it is really bad or really great.

    I hadn’t read anything about this before seeing it and was not particularly interested. It was on Netflix so I put it on half expecting to not even finish it. At first I did a huge eye-roll at the fake interviews but 10 minutes in I was totally hooked. Even the figure skating scenes were entertaining (and very impressive technically).

    I guess I came into this one with the opposite expectation of everyone else. It seems like most of you were hoping to get emotionally invested in the characters to make it interesting…which would be totally boring to me. But instead they just made a hilarious Scorsese/Coen mashup. I really liked this one.

    I haven’t seen Lars and the Real Girl in a long time. I remember being surprised to really enjoy that one, too. I wonder if it holds up.

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