I, TONYA (USA 2017) ***1/2

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I, Tonya Poster
Trailer

2:24 |Trailer
Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.

Director:

Craig Gillespie

Writer:

Steven Rogers (screenplay)

In 1994, the figure-skating world was shocked by the brutal attack on US medal hopeful Nancy Kerrigan.  The more shocking news was that the attack was allegedly conceived and executed by those close to — and perhaps including — rival figure skater Tonya Harding.  The film tells Tonya’s story and thus the title I, TONYA.

The story is revealed in tongue in cheek events with humour and irony while keeping to the main dramatic details.

Sad, funny but real this biopic of the infamous American figure Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) plays like a mockumentary as the film is bookended by interviews of the main characters 20 years after ‘the incident’.  The film then unfolds in chronological order with Tonya as a child brought to the skating rink as a skating prodigy by her mother who would often slap her around for not doing her best.  

‘The incident’ as described in those exact words in the film itself refers to the breaking of rival skater Nancy Kerrigan’s knee by Tonya’s ex-husband.  The question was whether she knew of the plot.  As the film explains she likely did not at the start, as it was all Jeff Gillooly’s (Sebastian Stan) idea but when she did get nailed for it, she was then banned from figure skating in any organization for life, a sentence in her own words, that was worst than prison.

Films have been often made of heroes and survivors, but it is seldom that one is made of white redneck trailer trash.  That is Tonya Harding.  But director Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers portray the skater as someone America loved to hate, but also paints her, despite her volatile and fierce personality someone vulnerable to her surroundings and acquaintances.  She is treated brutally (physically and emotionally) by both her two closest relatives, hers husband and mother (Allison Janney).

Director Gillespie remembers that I, TONYA is after all a film about the sport of figure skating.  The segments of skating have to be good and they are.  Compare the recent tennis film BATTLE OF THE SEXES which made the mistake of including no exciting matches in it.  Her triple axel at the 1991 championships is shown beautifully in slow motion.

Gillespie elicits some mighty fine performances from his cast most notably Robbie in the title role as well as Janney as her stern mother, LaVona.

The dialogue though in everyday words are at times so predictable, one can say the words just before the characters utter them.  In one scene, after LaVona after throwing a knife that sticks into her daughter’s arms utter the words: “Every family has its ups and downs.”   A comical line though the words are stolen from the play and film THE LION IN WINTER.  But there are some good lines in the script as when LaVona says (and really believes) that she sacrificed being a loving mother so that Tonya can grow up to become a fierce skater.

Though the film deals partly with the daughter/mother relationship, it shows for once that the relationship is a sour irreconcilable one.  Still the film finally gains the sympathy of the skater, that in her own words describes herself as the one America grew to hate.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXZQ5DfSAAc

 

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1997 Movie Review: PRIVATE PARTS, 1997 (Howard Stern)

PRIVATE PARTS,  MOVIE POSTERPRIVATE PARTS, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Betty Thomas

Cast: Howard Stern, Robin Quivers, Mary McCormack, Fred Norris, Paul Giamatti, Jackie Martling, Carol Alt, Allison Janney
Review by Jarred Thomas

SYNOPSIS:

The film tells the story of Howard Stern, the popular radio personality whose candor and crude humor revolutionized radio.

 REVIEW: 

One of the most controversial disc jockeys of all time, Howard Stern revolutionized radio for the masses and created a radio show that all other personalities try to emulate but fail in their attempts. The film is based on the popular book of the same name and chronicles the career of Howard from his childhood to high school and college to his early days in radio eventually leading to his radical career in broadcasting.

Love him or hate, Howard Stern is truly an entertainer and Private Parts shows not only his eccentric persona but also the struggles and challenges he faced from all angles. Whether it was local bullies or vindictive program directors, every obstacle was essential in developing the personality that would later become an iconic radio star.

Howard Stern plays, who else, but Howard Stern and while that may seem like an easy task considering he’s only playing himself, it’s not. He has to be able to convey his emotions and dramatic moment convincingly, no matter if he’s retelling an experience he went through. It still requires that he present a believable moment and this requires good acting, which he does.

Betty Thomas does an excellent job balancing the crude humor with the more heavy scenes. The supporting cast does a fine job as well. Paul Giamatti is great as spiteful program director, Lenny, or “pig vomit” as Howard refers to him. Together their scenes are absolute gold as both Howard and Paul play off each other perfectly.

There’s a memorable scene in which Paul addresses Howard and his gang (Robin and Fred) about the seven dirty words they are not allowed to say. This of course only entices Howard, who later develops a segment in which he says those exact words but in the context of a game show so as to make it seem innocent and appropriate for radio listeners.

Those who are familiar with the Howard Stern show can expect the typical naked sexy women and certain bits that are popular on his radio program. But there is also a heart to the film that provides warm moments between Howard and his wife Alison, played by the talented Mary McCormack. There’s one intense scene in particular that felt completely real as the two argue about a bit Howard did on the radio about a recent miscarriage the two suffered.

Howard has always made it clear that nothing in his life is private and he can at anytime use parts of his life to entertain his audience. The issue of the miscarriage is one of them. It’s interesting to see behind the scenes and the method to his madness.

With a strong supporting cast topped off with standout performances from both Howard Stern and Paul Giamatti, Private Parts is one of the funniest films filled with an abundance of pure entertainment. Even if you’re not a fan of the popular radio personality, I can assure you that this move will have you laughing and sympathizing with the famous disc jockey. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of who Howard Stern is as a personality, but more importantly as a person.

 

 

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PRIVATE PARTS, Fred Norris, Howard Stern, 1997, (c) Paramount