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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » I, Tonya (Blu-ray)
I, Tonya (Blu-ray)
Universal // R // March 13, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $22.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted March 9, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

My wife and I have this thing where we occasionally take a personal day, away from the chores of toddler care, and do stuff like get a massage, see a movie, etc. And she had told me about seeing I, Tonya and enjoying it and that, combined with the words of others I like but am not related to by marriage, persuaded me to see it, which brings me to where we are now and…wow.

Written by Steven Rogers (Love the Coopers) and directed by Craig Gillespie (The Finest Hours), the film recounts the up and down life of Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie, Focus). We learn about her growing up in a broken home and subject to physical and emotional abuse by her mother LaVona (Allison Janney, The Help), her marriage to Jeff Gilooley (Sebastian Stan, Captain America Civil War) when she was young and the subsequent abuse during that relationship, and of course her skating career.

I remember the controversy around Harding and Nancy Kerrigan and the 1994 Olympics as do a lot of people around my age and the media oversaturation that occurred during those times, the surreal nature of the events notwithstanding. Gillespie smartly uses the known and builds upon it with context and some style, using ‘modern day' Tonya, Jeff and LaVona among others as interview subjects for a documentary of sorts that frames the film, but also has the characters speak into the camera in non-interview segments to help give Tonya some humanity, or at least make sure you have a better idea about all of her story and life coming out and you did going in. And what pray tell is your impression of Tonya Harding after seeing I, Tonya? Well she's proud of her past, calling herself a redneck without reservation, but in the film you can see she picked up a certain resilience from it, through the torture her mother and husband gave her in he formative years. As the film moves into the second and third act, you can see how Tonya grew into her love of skating and how it went deeper than anyone could have expected; because it was the one thing in her life that meant the most to her because she had the most control over it. Having it corrupted and eventually taken away from her, and Robbie's interpretation of it, is compelling to watch.

This isn't to say that Robbie's first hour is flat by any means, it says at a consistently excellent level in the film from start to finish. I haven't seen the film that won Frances McDormand the Best Actress Oscar, but I did read the story about how someone took the statue from her afterwards (it was later recovered), but in a weird way that could and likely should have been Robbie's trophy for the taking. Maybe it was the subject, I don't know, but Robbie's performance was multifaceted, broad, comic, dramatic, sadly poignant, and she did it all superbly. The whole ensemble was excellent for that matter; Janney won the Best Supporting Actress statue and was rightly superb, Stan was also very good, and the remaining group was just as up to the task; Julianne Nicholson (Black Mass) is excellent as Harding's coach Diane, Paul Walter Hauser is great as the comically deluded Shawn Eckhardt. And Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man), who I smile at every time I see him on camera, plays Hard Copy producer Martin Maddox, who serves as a line of reality in periodic moments.

I, Tonya does a wonderful job at getting into Harding's life, motivations and compulsions, with marvelous work by Margot Robbie and cast. It may not have gotten as much award season love as it should, but it's a great achievement to bring you into the past notions and impressions you have of Harding. The only complaint I'd have is that it maybe tries a little too hard at using flash over substance, but it's a minor gripe on what is a phenomenal surprise and a darned near-perfect film.

The Blu-ray Disc:
The Video:

I, Tonya is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen and uses the AVC codec, but was shot on 35mm to perhaps gain a little bit in the area of grittiness befitting the subject. And in looking further, the recent interviews have a sort of washed out feeling to them, the news video looks appropriated aged, but the in the moment film looks fine. It lacks detail you'll see in more modern features but this is likely done intentionally, so as it is the transfer looked good to me and I didn't have much to gripe about.

The Sound:

There is a lot of music in I, Tonya, all from the pop/rock charts, and the DTS-HD 5.1 lossless track does enough justice to it. The songs are familiar but more importantly they're kind of perfect songs within the context of the scenes, God knows I was singing "Gloria" in my head for a few days after seeing the film. In quieter(!) moments such as a shotgun firing and reloading the pumping of the barrel is clear and distinct. Dialogue is fine and channel effects/channel panning are present but not wholly abundant through the film. I'd put it firmly in the ‘good, not great' category.

Extras:

Gillespie provides a commentary for the film and on the surface this was promising but in execution, comes off as flat. In a soft-spoken manner he discusses scene intent and shot choices, and recalls how some shots were originally planned out. But it is long on shot breakdown and short on production recall or a historical fact check. A lot of this could have been solved if he had someone else to play off of, but this is a technical heavy, monotonous track. Five deleted scenes (17:25) are next, including some Eckhardt takes, and a multi-part behind the scenes look at the five (5, 15:53) gets into the characters, cast, crew, thoughts on themselves and one another, and some of the visual effects involved. After these extras you're left underwhelmed.

Final Thoughts:

The only thing keeping me from saying that I, Tonya is an absolute must-own title to the collection is the lack of a DVD producer to put extras together, because they're hollow. However, the film is electric and the performances are exceptional, set against the backdrop of humor (dark or otherwise), a banging soundtrack and a story you may know but will appreciate in a whole other manner. Has to be one of the Best Films of 2017 and its arrival to video is mandatory viewing.

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