In "I, Tonya," truth is slippery as ice

In "I, Tonya," truth is slippery as ice

The screen is black.  There is a cough.  And then another.  This is the first 30 seconds of “I, Tonya.”  It is all the time necessary for those of us familiar with anecdotal details about Tonya Harding’s life to know that the screenwriter and filmmakers had done their homework.

Tonya Harding, a living series of contradictions, is an asthmatic who undermined her athletic career by smoking and, consequently, coughing.  Coughing is the first sound – and smoking the first view – of Margot Robbie portraying Harding on the screen.   

In watching the rest of the movie, knowing this story as well as those of us who covered it know this story led to a number of issues.

The first time I saw it, in a theater at October’s Chicago International Film Festival, I got hung up on trying to reconcile the film’s narrative with the facts.

My next three viewings, on a screener provided by the film’s distributors, Neon and 30West, allowed me to see “I, Tonya” for what it is as a movie:  a clever, farcical, sarcastic, wonderfully acted comic tragedy (or tragic comedy?).  But I came away feeling the film had mistakenly fallen in love with Tonya, making it prey to the temptation to pardon Harding for her missteps, her irresponsible behavior and her willful waste of a generational talent. 

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