'I, Tonya' Movie Review - Honest Reviews with Kim Holcomb

I, Tonya is rated R and stars Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, and Sebastian Stan. It opens in theaters on January 5.


MOOD: happy


First let me say – happy new year!

I took time off from reviewing during the holidays, but I'm excited to start again because there's a lot to look forward to in 2018.

As always, I'll start with full disclosure about where my mind was when I screened the movie.

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I watched I, Tonya the week after Christmas, so suffice to say - I felt fat and happy. I'd spent the previous week eating too much and spending time with my family. It was an excellent break from reality.

Before I screened the movie, I had pizza and red wine for dinner.

My expectations were high, because I'd read so many glowing reviews.

Thankfully, I, Tonya did not disappoint.

Most of us over the age of 30 know the story of Tonya Harding (especially those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest.) But I loved the structure of the film, because it still offered some surprises.

Set primarily in Tonya's hometown of Portland, Ore., the screenwriter crafted the story using accounts from both the skater and her ex-husband. Since their accounts don't match up, it's left to the audience to decide who they believe.

The filmmakers also did a great job of re-creating moments we know were real, because we watched in real time - like Tonya's disastrous skate at the 1994 Olympics when she begged the judges to let her fix her laces and try again.

The movie doesn't sugar coat things. Child abuse and domestic violence are threads throughout the story, from Tonya's mother beating her with a hairbrush as a kid, to Jeff Gillooly slapping her around as an adult.

And that makes what I'm about to say seem weird, BUT – the film is also really funny, and it works. It's an incredibly dark comedy, to be sure, but the humor helps temper some of the violence and pain.

I like that the movie is also ambivalent about Tonya. She's no hero, but she's also not the media-depicted-devil we saw during the Nancy Kerrigan attack and aftermath.

A lot of that is due to Margot Robbie's performance. She plays the role with equal parts ferocity and vulnerability, creating a tragic story of hope and promise dashed by violence, anger and self-sabotage. Robbie absolutely deserves an Oscar nomination, and possibly the win.

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Allison Janney is also exceptional portraying the character LaVona, Tonya's foul-mouthed, abusive, infuriating mother. (In real life, LaVona denies Tonya's accusations of abuse and recently told Inside Edition that Janney “doesn't even look like me.”)

I was also happily surprised by Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly – he's terrific, and almost unrecognizable compared to his turn as "The Winter Soldier.”

My review for I, Tonya?

It's a must-see, if you lived through the scandal... or live in the Pacific Northwest... or live to see excellent performances in great films.

But my recommendation comes with a warning: I fell down a research rabbit hole after watching the movie, and spent about two hours Googling and reading everything I could about the skating scandal.

So be sure to carve out some extra time in your day for that.


I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. I interview actors and filmmakers. I've worked in broadcast television for 20 years.

I'm also a Seattle wife and mom who works full-time and sits in an hour of traffic (minimum) every day.

Sometimes I'm tired when I screen a movie. Sometimes I'm traveling and I miss my kids. Sometimes I've had a glass wine when I should have had a glass of water.

All of these things can impact my reaction to a film. Because I'm human.

So in an effort to write an Honest Review, I'll always list the external factors that might affect my enjoyment of the movie. Then, I'll give you my review. Then, you can decide if it's useful or not.

What do you think of Honest Review or I, Tonya? Let me know at @kimholcomb.