Tag Archives: Allison Janney

I, Tonya

Margot Robbie is convinced this film will change your mind about Tonya Harding. Is she a villain or a victim? Abused or abuser? The truth is, your opinion doesn’t really matter and truth doesn’t really exist. What does exist: a wholly funny film that never fails to entertain.

{In the unlikely event you’re in need of a refresher: Tonya Harding was an American figure skater in the 1990s, and competed twice in the Olympics. She was known for two things: for being the first American female to land a triple axel in competition, and for bashing in her Nancy Kerrigan’s knee.}

Margot Robbie is well-cast as Tonya Harding. She’s still just a little too pretty to play elm120117intelmovies-007-1512400299white trash, even with the poofy 90s bangs, but she comes down low and it’s pretty glorious. Sebastian Stan plays Harding’s good for nothing husband, Jeff Gillooly, and he disappears into the role of dumb fuck. Jeff’s dumb ass best friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) pretends to be an international spy even though he’s a grownup who lives with his parents. Not exactly criminal masterminds, but this is the trio that brought us the most delicious scandal of 1994 (until OJ Simpson that is – if you thought Lillehammer was competitive, try being a celebrity fuck up). But for my money, I’d have to say that the real cast stand-out was Ms. Allison Janney, who plays Tonya’s mother LaVonam who, by sheer comparison, makes bathtub scum look appealing. She’s the dirtiest of dirts with not a kind word or intention in the world. If being a crummy mother was an Olympic sport, she wouldn’t have to resort to breaking any kneecaps.

The first thing that may surprise you about this film is that it’s funny. Actually funny, though pretty dark – the kind of laughs you feel slightly guilty about succumbing to, but you’ll need to just embrace the absurdity. It is¬†farcical, in the way only a true story can be when it’s populated with idiots.

The second thing that surprised me anyway, was that it actually does dredge up sympathy for our poor Tonya. Her guilt (or innocence) is not really the point. This is Tonya’s story, hers alone from beginning to end. No one’s trying to excuse what happened, but putting “the incident” within context is actually very interesting.

I, Tonya is funny, dramatic, pumped full of energy, and even the sports angle is well-done. Certainly Margot Robbie can be commended for all the hard work she put in getting skate-ready, but she gets a lot of help from choreographers, stunt people, and CGI – effects that are pulled off almost seemlessly. But it’s the camera work that makes the figure skating extra exciting – you really get a sense of the speed and athleticism, two hallmarks of Harding’s style in particular. No matter your experience of “the incident” at the time, I, Tonya turns tragedy into triumph.

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Tallulah

The last time Ellen Page and Allison Janney shared the (figurative) stage, it was in Juno: Page was the pregnant teen and Janney the surprisingly supporting stepmom. Now they’re reteamed in similarly maternal roles. Page plays a young drifter who kidnaps a baby, and Janney is the duped divorcee who believes herself to be a Grandma.

This is not a perfect movie by any means and yet you’re going to spend the next 4 minutes reading about its virtues. Why? Because this movie was written and directed by a woman Tallulah_Unit_00820R-1000x562(Sian Heder) and features three of the most complexly-written and -rendered female characters you’re going to see on the big (well small – it’s on Netflix) screen this year.

Although the movie goes through the obligatory police-crime drama, its focus is really on these 3 women and their relationship to the world. Tallulah and Margo in particular yearn to feel connected, to feel necessary to someone, but are terrified of what that means. To love so enormously is also to risk loss. Wanting to be needed can lead to feeling disposable. Carolyn, on the other hand (Tammy Blanchard), is the dismayed if distracted mother now missing one baby. Although her young child needs her very much, she neglects her in order to get those same feelings from a man. She ends up utterly alone – blamed, shamed, and full of regret.

The movie shifts tone rather abruptly – one minute Page and Janney are trading stiletto-sharp barbs, the next they’re unloading some Louis Vuitton-worthy emotional baggage. Page is a petite powerhouse and Janney an exceptionally talented opponent and the film is never better than when the two are struggling to find a path between their fierce independence and the need to show someone else their pain. Theirs is about as fucked up as a mother-daughter dynamic can get, but they come from such a real and honest place6840c860-4efc-11e6-86d5-59965f7b75f9_20160721_Tallulah_Dead you can’t help but be drawn in. I am so proud to tell you about a movie in which women are taking care of themselves, and taking care of each other, and finding strength, not weakness, in accepting help from others. It’s heartening, just fucking inspiring, to see women taking this leap on behalf of all of us: reach out. Connect. It’s scary and risky and worth it.

 

 

 

Editor’s note: this post was not intended as an endorsement of kidnapping. Back away from the baby.