Director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers have taken an unapologetically black-comedic, highly fictionalized approach to the life of figure skater and media punching bag Tonya Harding. I, Tonya invites us to feel smugly superior and to sneer at “white trash” culture and Hard Copy-friendly scandal, even when the real-life events are depressing, bloody and ugly. A title card tells us that the movie is based on “irony-free, wildly contradictory and totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly.” Harding, played by Margot Robbie, announces, "There's no such thing as the truth."
The snarky tone and the subject matter aren’t always the best fit. The movie’s binary structure takes a he-said, she-said approach to the events narrated by Harding and volatile ex-husband Gillooly, played persuasively by Sebastian Stan. It’s all presented as a would-be Scorsese wink-wink affair—a brawling, bone-cracking, trailer-trash farce mockumentary.