I, Tonya

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
I, Tonya Movie Poster Image
Fact-based dark comedy has strong language, domestic abuse.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 119 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

You could spin the film's message into something about Harding (according to the film) being a survivor. But, really, it plays out as a series of calamities perpetrated by morons who ruin a person's life. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Harding is undoubtedly a survivor. But pretty much every relationship she has in the film is toxic, except for one of her coaches, who tries to help her. None of the other key characters are particularly admirable, either, especially Harding's mother.

Violence

Disturbing domestic violence (hitting/beating) that's depicted realistically, with emotional impact. There are several such incidents; Harding is abused by both her mother and, later, her boyfriend/husband. The infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan is shown in passing. The most graphic violence occurs in boxing matches toward the end, which are pretty vicious and bloody. Young Tonya and her father go hunting; a rabbit is killed and skinned.

Sex

Non-graphic sex scenes between a couple both before and after they get married. Strip-club nudity. 

Language

Pervasive strong language includes frequent uses of "f--k," "s--t," plus "c--t," "d--k," "ass," "damn," "crap," "hell," "goddamn," and more.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A fair amount of smoking by a world-class athlete. Also some drinking and drug use, sometimes by elite athletes (some take bong hits in a hotel room).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I, Tonya is based on the true story of controversial 1990s figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie). It's a dark comedy with plenty of mature content. Harding is serially abused by both her mother and her boyfriend/husband; the scenes of abuse are depicted realistically and have intense emotional impact. There's also pervasive strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and more), some sexuality (including strip-club nudity), and both drug use and smoking, sometimes by world-class athletes. Plus, the movie presents a pretty bleak view of the world, in which a person can have everything she's worked for destroyed by idiots and sociopaths.

User Reviews

Adult Written byAhmed A. December 27, 2017
Adult Written byJohn M. January 24, 2018

Good Movie

The movie shows the true story of the rivalry between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan in the lead up to the 1994. There is a lot of profanity and a sex scene.... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byLoriat January 27, 2018

Clever film, but very coarse language

This movie turns the story you all know upside down. It has an interesting perspective and surprising comedy. But there’s very strong language, brief nudity, an... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byJANugur March 9, 2018

Best One of 2017

This movie has a great editing to start with and all the of the actors and actresses got into their characters. You should watch it no matter what. Don't... Continue reading

What's the story?

In I, TONYA, scrappy Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) overcomes class divisions to become a world-class figure skater. Despite a fraught relationship with her (depicted as) abusive mother, LaVona (Allison Janney), and an explosive one with her (depicted as) abusive boyfriend/husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), Harding rises to compete at the highest levels. But on the cusp of the 1994 Winter Olympics, an attack on her chief rival, Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), threatens to undo everything Harding has worked for. 

Is it any good?

This blackly comic chronicle of an event we all thought we knew about will be remembered long after the end credits roll. The real-life Harding has given I, Tonya her seal of approval, so it's not surprising that the movie is sympathetic to her, but it's a feat to pull it off with such aplomb. Robbie's portrayal gets under the skin of a person shaped by abandonment, abuse, and class warfare. Her Tonya is a fighter, a survivor. Despite codependent relationships with her abusers and some pretty poor decisions, the lower-working-class girl makes herself into a force in the hoity-toity figure skating world (at least, as it's depicted in the film). And all this is accomplished on-screen with humor and spirit. Director Craig Gillespie (The Finest Hours, Million Dollar Arm) and writer Steven Rogers (P.S. I Love You, Hope Floats) have never demonstrated anything like this in their filmographies -- the closest would be Gillespie's offbeat Lars and the Real Girl. But I, Tonya is snappy, biting, and dark. It's hilarious in its depictions of the morons plotting the infamous attack on Kerrigan and painful in showing the incident's impact on Harding. 

The film shows a completely different side of Harding than you get from news coverage, but ultimately, it's all about truth and perspective. I, Tonya challenges what you believe. Toward that end, it offers multiple points of view of events, including intentionally conflicting ones. Stan must play Gillooly as an abusive jerk, a well-meaning supporter, and a dimwitted criminal "mastermind," all at the same time. Janney transforms as Harding's toxic mother, whose actions can seem over-the-top but remain anchored by a committed performance. As young Tonya, the outstanding McKenna Grace (so good in Gifted) makes a very strong impression in her limited screen time. Her goodbye moment with her father is heartbreaking. But the big story here is Robbie, the film's co-producer and star, who trained intensively to pull off most of the role's physical demands. Her performance never feels as if it's manipulating us to feel sorry for Harding; rather, she seems to be getting down to business as a character. There's a lot to get behind with this version of Harding, and Robbie makes sure we're all with her. She's tough. She never feels as if she's commenting on the infamous character (even when breaking the fourth wall). Her courtroom scene is plain great acting. Without her convincing portrayal, the film wouldn't succeed in making us rethink Harding, the incident, and her fate.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how their opinions of real-life events are shaped by news stories and movies. What did you know about the Harding-Kerrigan incident before seeing I, Tonya? What assumptions had you made? Did the movie change your mind? How accurately do you think the movie presents people and events? 

  • How does the film portray domestic abuse? How did watching those scenes make you feel? Did they have more or less impact than other kinds of movie violence?

  • What message does it send to see champion athletes smoking and doing drugs? What's the intent of these scenes?

  • Why do you think the filmmakers chose to barely depict Kerrigan at all? Do you think the film is fair to Gillooly? 

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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