Published: Sun, December 10, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Revisiting Tonya Harding, and the Robots Angling for Your Job

Revisiting Tonya Harding, and the Robots Angling for Your Job

Margot Robbie stars as Tonya Harding, and she lights every firecracker at her disposal, giving a truly explosive performance inside a movie that merely pops.

Harding's career as a figure skater came to an end after she conspired with her ex-husband and bodyguard to break fellow American skater Nancy Kerrigan's legs ahead of the 1994 Winter Olympics. But the more Robbie dug, the more she developed sympathy for the fallen champion. There was no mention of how Harding, due to her appearance, could never get a fair shake despite her skating abilities. "'How are you coping with being famous at a young age?" I wouldn't know the full, complicated story until two decades later, with the airing of ESPN's 30 for 30 The Price of Gold which unraveled the incident as a complicated web of domestic abuse, classism in ice skating, and the voracious appetite of a then-burgeoning 24-hour news cycle.

Instead, we get a maudlin scene of Harding facing her problems in a make-up mirror like some old lady Joan Crawford cliché.

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Tonya Harding's story is unusual, it's sad, and it's now the subject of a brisk new drama from director Craig Gillespie.

Tonya Harding has gone from a disgraced Olympic figure skater to wowing Hollywood stars on the red carpet. A single mom who works as a waitress, she stands up for herself in a way that working class people often feel is not possible for them; LaVonna won't take no for an answer when she decides that little Tonya needs to be trained as a figure skater, for example, and works extra shifts to pay for the coaching once she secures it for her daughter.

To hear it from screenwriter Steven Rogers - best known for writing romantic fare such as Hope Floats and Kate and Leopold before his I, Tonya script wound up on the Black List of Hollywood's best unproduced screenplays past year - portraying the domestic violence was simply a function of his research. She even appeared to be grateful for the movie, which brought her to tears, screenwriter Steven Rogers told Deadline. In his separate conversations with the pair, he found their perspectives differed to such a degree that Rogers simply made a decision to let them speak for themselves, directly addressing the audience and letting their conflicting versions of events jockeying for screen time. Thank goodness they actually got Margot Robbie. That, ponytailed, love-sick, versatile supervillainess has captured the imagination of more filmgoers than Wonder Woman (Harley Quinn clones are multitude at every Comic Con) and that gum-chewing impudence is what gay sensibility intuits even in Harding's hard luck story. "I thought, "Wow, this writer is, like, insane creative coming up with all this freakish stuff", Robbie says. It was part of the true story". She did that and more. "It has to be brutal because it really informs you of her choices in life". So to pick the right filmmaker was going to be huge", Robbie says, citing why she also signed on as a producer: "I just wasn't prepared to let all of those things just be left up to someone else's decision. The scene, set to the song "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart", is tragic, because of the acts of physical violence it depicts and the emotional violence wrought by having one's reality denied by supposedly objective onlookers.

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If you've only ever assumed Harding is a villain, have you ever stopped to consider that maybe, just maybe, there didn't need to be a "good girl" and a "bad girl" in this narrative? "But I'm also noted as the one and only American woman that did the first triple Axel and those are the things that no one can take away from me". Robbie then went about adjusting her posture.

Another correctly-shown fact in the movie was that Harding had a lot of issues at home with her family.

"She is sort of a monster on the page and I had to find her humanity, and what she wanted in life".

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