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Biopic About Figure Skater Tonya Harding Reviewed


If you were live in 1994, you probably remember hearing a lot about Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding. There was a media frenzy when Harding's ex-husband was implicated in an attack on her main competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. The movie "I, Tonya" looks at Harding's story with special emphasis on her ferocious mom, who's played by Allison Janney. In a few minutes, we'll hear our co-host Ari Shapiro's conversation with Janney and "I, Tonya" screenwriter Steven Rogers. First, critic Bob Mondello has a review of the film.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: In a world of glittering sequins and pirouettes to Tchaikovsky, Tonya Harding sewed her own costumes and skated to ZZ Top. She was ice skating's supremely talented bad girl.


BOBBY CANNAVALE: (As Martin Maddox) Tonya did the triple axel. No one else could or even had the [expletive] to try. Tonya Harding was not the image...

MARGOT ROBBIE: (As Tonya) Could I just interrupt with a quick word about Nancy Kerrigan? It'll just take a sec.


EN VOGUE: (Singing) Free your mind.

ROBBIE: (As Tonya) Nancy and I were friends, OK? We were roommates sometimes on the road. But the press wanted Nancy to be a princess and me to be the pile of [expletive] to sell papers. I mean, what kind of frigging person bashes in their friend's knee? Who would do that to a friend?

MONDELLO: Good question, one the film answers by pulling in as many conflicting, unreliable narrators as it can - Tonya's abusive husband, her dim bodyguard, her ruthless mom who pushed her onto the ice when she was 4.


ALLISON JANNEY: (As LaVona Golden) And we figured with the right training, she could make the most of her gift, like, Ice Capades maybe one day or something.

MONDELLO: A chain-smoking Allison Janney is so scene-stealing you worry she'll outshine the title character. But director Craig Gillespie gives Margot Robbie room to spin Tonya into a skittery, surprisingly sympathetic whirlwind on the ice. Her triple axels may be digitized, but her strength is all Robbie. Tonya's been a punching bag for everyone, including the public. And yes, the film implicates us in that. But her defiance grows with every heckle, including her mother's.


JANNEY: (As LaVona Golden) I didn't stay home making apple brown betties. No, I made you a champion...

MONDELLO: I'm Bob Mondello.


JANNEY: (As LaVona Golden) ...Knowing you'd hate me for it. That's the sacrifice a mother makes. I wish I'd had a mother like me instead of nice. Nice gets you [expletive]. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.