Thursday, March 15, 2018

I, TONYA (2017) (Blu-ray Review)


I, TONYA (2017)

Label: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: R

Duration: 119 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.39;1) 
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Margo Robbie, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale, Julianna Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser 

Synopsis: Based on the incredible true events, I, Tonya is a darkly comedic tale of American figure skater, Tonya Harding, and one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with the infamous attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan.

As someone who was in his twenties in the nineties I have a pretty vivid recollection of this whole professional figure skating incident that rocked the world in '94, an event that was in the news for what felt like way too long even at the time, let alone in retrospect. IN fact when this movie was first announced I zeroed it out in my mind, it barely registered as a blip on my cinema-radar, and I had no interest in an overly-dramatic retelling of the story for the big screen. However, when I saw a trailer for the film I began to change my tune, the film seemed to be going for an off-kilter Coen Bros. tone, and having watched the film now I can say that initial impression was right-on. 

Here we have a mockumentary-styled confessional documentary mixed with dramatic footage and what reports to be vintage news reel footage, not told soley from Tonya Harding's (Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad) perspective, but also that of her abusive mother LaVonna (Allison Janney, Drop Dead Gorgeous), her ex-husband Jeff Gillooley (Sebastian Stan, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and her dip-shitted bodyguard (Paul Walter Hauser). This is one of the unreliable narrator stories only this time we have four unreliable liars and none seem to agree on their intent, involvement and/or guilt in the proceedings, often times break the fourth wall to address perceived inaccuracies about the public record of the event or to contradict a confessional of another narrators, it makes for an uneven but awesomely entertaining watch. 

The cast is great, Robbie as Harding is a tough-as-nails slice of white trash trying to make in the world of figure skating, a sport apparently ripe with class warfare, and Tonya didn't quite fit the wholesome profile they'd hoped for, which spurred the rivalry with figure skating princess Nancy Kerrigan, leading to the knee-capping that eventually ended Harding's professional career. The characters are a mix of losers and abusive family that surrounded Harding for her entire life, we have her venomous mother verbally and physically abusing her, and a lover who regularly beat her. The domestic abuse is not glossed over either, it's hard to watch it happen, but the weird and wacky Coen Bros. tone of the film makes it feel like an odd juxtaposition, it really brought to mind Fargo in that way.  The violence and degrading is presented matter-of-fact, as if to show this this what Harding grew up with and not surprisingly fell into as an adult. 

While Robbie is impressive in the role it's the insanely wonderful Allison Janney who steals the damn movie, her abusive character often wearing a fur coat with a parrot perched on her shoulder, constantly chain-smoking and eschewing the worst sort of motherly verbage, certainly not a nurturing woman to say the least, and just when you think she's about to redeem herself she blows it! I, Tonya (2017) might just become my new favorite ironic mother's day movie, this was blast.  

Audio/Video: I, Tonya (2017) arrives on Blu-ray/DVD combo from Universal framed in 2.39:1 widescreen looking sharp and vibrant, the early 90s aesthetic comes through with great detail. The surround DTS-HD MA 5. is solid, the mockumentary stuff doesn't ask a whole lot of the surrounds but the soundtrack sounds great, we have fantastic song selections from ZZ Top, Supertramp, Fleetwoood Mac and the Violent Femmes among others, optional English subtitles are provided.  

Extras include an audio commentary with the director, a behind the scenes featurette featuring interviews and a glimpse of the making of the film, trailers and 18-minutes of deleted scenes. The 20disc dual format release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of one-sided artwork, featuring an embossed slipcover (o-card)) with the same artwork. 

Special Features: 
- Deleted Scenes (18 min) 
- Behind-the-Scenes (16 min) 
- Feature Commentary with Director Craig Gillespie
- Trailers (6 min) 

I, Tonya is a very very fun film, it's not what I was expecting but it exceeded all my expectations, making me laugh and wince in equal measure. If you're a fan of the Coen Bros. off-kilter comedies or mockumentaries along the lines of Drop Dead Gorgeous definitely give this one a watch, a high recommend.  

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