Trust me to get to new movie releases after the buzz has passed. I'd heard plenty of good things about I, Tonya back when it was a thing but failed to let it register in my mind. It went by me like so many action-hero flicks do, sort of a vague whoosh easily gone and forgotten.
It came back one day as I was fiddling with the public library app on my phone. There it was featured at the top, having recently been the subject of a commentary by another library patron. And I thought hey, why not. I mean, it's free.
I watched it last night. I was intrigued by the techniques used to tell her story; a cross between a mockumentary and a secret ode to Woody Allen. So many asides, so many wise cracks, such as when the mother complains that her story is at risk of disappearing from the narrative.
It was like watching the proverbial train wreck in slow motion. Everyone knows how the story goes, what challenges she faced, what domestic horrors she lived through. Stereotypes exist for a reason; the level of dysfunction in Tonya Harding's private life is depressing and not because it's so rare. Quite the contrary. Lives like hers are as common as rain in April.
Tonya was no angel. She contributed to her own misery in many ways. But there was one thing she did well, and it was skating.
It was her life, her everything. After her trial she got banished from it. The scene where she reacts to her sentence despite her lawyer trying to shush her is by far the most poignant of all. Whereas the guys involved in the sordid affair that resulted in Nancy Kerrigan's knee being bashed in got shortish prison sentences, she got a life-long punishment she considered worse than being temporarily deprived of her freedom. She implored the judge to send her to jail instead but it was too late and maybe nobody cared anyway.
I do. Here is a woman whose punishment for a crime she did not herself commit was to deprive her of the one and only thing she ever wanted to do with her life. They took the meaning of Tonya out of her, leaving only a shell where her essence once lived, however imperfectly.
She was an artist. She worked with ice, very sharp blades, blue nail polish and slightly vulgar flair. She made it work for her. She found meaning in what she was doing, until it was taken away from her.
It was a troubling reminder for me. We should never waver in doing our thing, because we can't count on anyone making it easy for us to live our art - not even ourselves.