Release Date of “I, Tonya” Hints at Oscar Aspirations

The movie I, Tonya, made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier in the year. Viewers gave the movie stellar reviews largely based on the performances of Margot Robbie and Allison Janney. Based on a true life story (which Robbie was totally oblivious to, even after reading the script) of Tonya Harding. It is scheduled to open in theaters on December 8th after its rights were bought by Neon for a hefty price tag of $5 million. That is a considerable sum to pay for a biopic, especially about ice skating. The fact that Robbie, at age 27, had not even heard of either of the major players or the event itself. OK, Robbie is Australian, so we can give her a pass on that one.

Harding became infamous for her conspiracy to whack competitor and American ice skater Nancy Kerrigan on the knee, forcing her to withdraw from the 1994 Olympic trials. As is normal for incompetent criminals, the goon, Shane Stant, missed high and bruised Kerrigan’s thigh. Despite Harding’s attempts at thuggery, Kerrigan recovered and went on to gain a silver medal in the ’94 Olympics. Harding also made the team and finished back in 8th place.

Harding was charged with conspiracy, pleaded guilty, and did no jail time. But the U.S. Figure Skating Association stripped Harding of her USFSA medals and banned her for life in 1994. She went on to sell her story to the media (naturally) and cashed in even more by selling a sex video of her and her husband to Penthouse magazine. Now this.

The movie is about the life of Tonya Harding, which required a good deal of acting skill to effectively portray Harding as a redneck outsider in the skating world whose only hope for recognition was be performing on the ice. Critics are exuberant about Margot Robbie’s display of talent in this movie, some calling her the best actress on the screen today. Fans of Robbie will remember her well for her performance as Naomi, wife of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street.

But it is rare when a single star can carry an entire movie on their own. That is why an equal number of critics are giving Allison Janney a ton of credit for her performance. Playing Harding’s mother, she is cast as the person largely responsible for her daughter’s dysfunctional behavior and lifestyle.

Their collective performances have the movie and the actresses being early favorites for Oscar nominations. Specific to the Academy Award nomination, the candidates for Best Actress are already filling up fast. Consider who is already in the running.

  • Annette Bening for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
  • Gal Gadot for Wonder Woman
  • Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri
  • Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird

Neither actress has been nominated for an Oscar, so when competing against veterans such as Bening and McDormand, they will definitely have their hands full. But as we all know, The Oscars can be finicky. Stay tuned. As for the target viewing audience, if the marketing goal is to sell it based on its reputation at Toronto, they had better hope younger audiences are willing to do a quick Google check to bring them up to speed. Robbie and Janney will need all the fan support they can get.

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