I, Tonya: Well-Deserved Nominations, Potential Triggers

Did young Tonya Harding ever imagine that a movie about her would earn multiple Oscar nominations? Perhaps—but during many periods of her life, this might have seemed like a laughable impossibility to her—and to many of us, for that matter.



Well, it happened. Feature film I, Tonya earned three Oscar nominations, which are well deserved. The nominees are:

Best Actress – Margot Robbie

This Aussie’s portrayal of an American girl from the wrong side of the tracks is commendable. Margot Robbie’s native accent in this movie is non-existent. Anyone who knows anything about Tonya Harding knows that domestic abuse is part of her story, and it is a big part of this movie. Tonya gets it often, and hard, from her mother, LaVona, and later from her husband, Jeff Gillooly. Robbie’s Tonya Harding never cowers, and she gives it out almost as much as she takes it. She’s much harsher than the real Tonya, and she doesn’t resemble her much, but until the scenes of Harding’s skating ran during the credits, I had almost forgotten what she looked like in real life. Speaking of the skating, Robbie does a fair amount of it in the movie.

Best Supporting Actress – Allison Janney

Allison Janney shows the breadth of her acting chops in this movie. She plays a woman with a terrible reputation in a believable way, but at the same time, in a manner that evokes sympathy. This is also a credit to the screenwriter and the director. She sat for hours, and perhaps days, with a bird on her shoulder during the mock interviews. She sat for hours, and probably weeks, in a makeup chair to transform her from an attractive woman to a haggard, worn wench who looks like she must be a hoarder. Janney plays a woman who says she sacrificed everything for her daughter, knowing that her daughter would someday hate her, and we believe her. The moment when Janney breaks the fourth wall to complain that the story line has shifted its focus from her to Jeff is a welcome break from the domestic violence intensity of the movie.

Best Achievement in Film Editing – Tatiana S. Riegel

Imagine filming numerous shots of multiple skaters, adding some fancy CGI, and editing everything into a smooth skating sequence. Margot Robbie performed more of the skating tricks than one would think, but she can’t do expert jumps. Never once would the audience suspect that editing sorcery was to thank for the skating scenes in this film. Another feat of editing involved a real and a taxidermy rabbit. Somehow with crafty directing, filming, and editing, we get a disturbing bullseye view of a rabbit being blown to smithereens.

Potential Triggers

If you’ve read this far, you can probably identify the two potential triggers in this film.

The first potential trigger is domestic violence. There is plenty of it in this film, probably too much. But, the violence does not seem gratuitous. It seems real until occasional breaks of the fourth wall provide some respite from the violence.

The second potential trigger involves the rabbit(s). Although the American Humane Association explains the hunting scene, in which the rabbit was not killed, it would disturb animal lovers (and remember friends, you can’t be a true animal lover if you eat animals, unless you qualify the statement by saying you love eating animals). Even though a taxidermy rabbit was used for the hunting scene, that animal lost its life at an earlier time. There is also a rabbit-skinning scene, which is graphic. The skinned pelts become a coat that Tonya wears. If no animals were used in the skinning scene, and if the coat was faux, kudos to the film makers, because you could have fooled me.


I, Tonya is worthy of its Oscar nominations, and you might just feel a little more sympathetic to Tonya Harding after you watch it. There is no part of this film in which Harding expects anyone to feel sorry for her, though. Instead, she seems to be a woman who wants the world, that hates her, to know her and to listen to her side of the story.

Ann Silverthorn


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