After making time to see most of this season's quality films, I decided Saturday night to take a chance on "I, Tonya" -- what's being generously termed a "biopic" of Tonya Harding.
In actuality, it should be branded "historical fiction."
This story couldn't have been more sympathetic to Tonya if she'd written it herself. My former colleague at The Oregonian, Julie Vader, did an outstanding job of pointing out all the inaccuracies in the movie. I recommend reading it. Vader, along with reporter Abby Haight, were the experts on Tonya Harding -- off the ice and on. In those days, I admit I wasn't much interested in writing about beauty contests on ice -- my cynical take on a sport long known for its ridiculous "judging" -- although I did write about Harding once in a while.
In fact, I was one who was against barring her from the Olympics when she had not yet had her day in court. Then, I remember ripping her because when she finally got to Lillihammer, Norway, and the Winter Games, she didn't even attempt her signature triple axel. On the biggest stage, she didn't have the intestinal fortitude to even go for it -- which is not exactly the Olympic ideal.
I also remember driving to a casino on the coast to watch one of her "boxing" matches. Ugh. She certainly wasn't the fighter this movie tried to portray. It was a mess:
Against Emily Gosa in Lincoln City, Oregon, she was roundly booed upon entering the arena. “The entire fight barely rose above the level of a drunken street brawl,” The Independent reported.
The New York Times famously chimed in on this movie -- and Harding -- recently with a headline that read "Tonya Harding Would Like Her Apology Now." The piece includes a quote from Harding that pretty much sums up her attitude and intellect:
“I moved from Oregon to Washington because Oregon was buttheads,” she said.
But this movie attempts to glorify her and rationalize her -- a convicted felon who plea-bargained her way out of bigger trouble and never served a day behind bars for it.
I am not surprised. We live in an age of revisionist history and a lot of people who aren't interested in seeking out the real truth. More and more I'm seeing attempts being made to paint the early 1990s "Jail Blazers" as a lovable bunch of rogues who were unfairly characterized by a racist media. Sorry, but that's very wrong.
But go see if the Harding movie if you want a few laughs. Margot Robbie and particularly Allison Janney are very good. There are a few chuckles -- mixed with some nasty scenes of spousal and child abuse that, along with a whole lot of gratuitous profanity, make the movie totally unacceptable for kids.