Over the last few weeks, I managed to watch a few of the movies from 2017 that I put on my “To watch” list. Let’s go!
“I, Tonya” is an interesting film that explores the life, career, and downfall of ice skater, Tonya Harding. If you grew up in the 90s, you know about the infamous story of Harding’s fellow ice skater, Nancy Kerrigan, being “knee-capped” by some stranger after a practice session. Tonya was implicated in the attack and the whole world witnessed an infamous case of jealousy and personal vendetta that jumped over the line to criminality.
The film has an interesting structure, “interviewing” many of the main players like Tonya, her abusive mother, equally abusive husband, and several others. Tonya’s tough upbringing is explored while spliced with these interviews sometimes making us wonder if we’re dealing with multiple unreliable narrators. There’s a lot of he said/she said moments that bring about comedy and tragedy making us feel for Tonya. There are many historical moments captured from her performances and the most impressive is her landing two triple axel jumps in one competition, making her the first female figure skater to ever accomplish such a mark.
All of this however takes a drastic fall into chaos as Tonya feels the full weight and pressure of her success overshadowed by the more “likeable” Kerrigan. The film doesn’t stray from the infamous clubbing of Kerrigan and makes no excuses for Tonya’s role in the plot carried out by her husband and his friend.
What struck me most in the film are the performances. Each actor and actress embodied their role. Margot Robbie as Harding is memorable. Many times, I forgot I was watching the same actress who brought Harley Quinn to life. Robbie did an amazing job and I kind of feel like she was over-shadowed by Allison Janney who played Tonya’s mother and stole every scene she was in. Vindictive and downright cruel, I can see why Janney took home the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.
While hard to watch at times, the film definitely superseded my expectations. It’s not one I would add to my personal Blu-ray collection but worth watching at least once.
If you’ve never heard of Tommy Wiseau and his feature film, “The Room”, which has been dubbed by everyone who’s ever seen it as the worst film they’ve ever watched, then don’t feel bad. I’ve never seen “The Room” myself but I’ve known of its existence for awhile and seen quite a bit of footage that I am quite familiar with it’s “quality”.
“The Disaster Artist” is the film that chronicles the unlikely friendship between Wiseau and Greg Sestero who met in an acting class in San Francisco and eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting careers. They do so and fail to land any jobs before deciding to write their own film. Wiseau writes, produces, directs, and stars in the film. “The Disaster Artist” film directed and starring James Franco takes much of its lead from Sestero’s memoir which chronicled the making and production of “The Room”.
Once again, the performances are what make this film. Tommy Wiseau is for lack of a better word, “interesting”. No one knows his true age or origin. He has what many believe is an Eastern European accent but says he’s from New Orleans. The other mysterious thing about him is his wealth. He paid for the entirety of the film from equipment, production costs, and actor’s and crew salaries.
Based on the memoir, it’s hard to believe Wiseau is the real deal and not a grand conman. Watch any interview with him and you’ll be convinced he’s not real. It’s been long enough now though that it’s very likely he is who he is. He continues to make films and has a cult status in Hollywood.
Back to “The Disaster Artist”. James Franco as Wiseau is outstanding. He could have very likely won the Best Actor Academy Award if not for sexual abuse allegations made against him. All you have to do is compare Franco’s performance to that of Wiseau (the film does this during the end credits) to see his full range of dedication. You do not have to watch “The Room” to enjoy this one. You will ask more than once if this guy is for real.
Call to Action: While these films are dramas, you will laugh while watching both. I recommend both but just know these are not “normal” films. They both approach storytelling in different ways than other biopics out there.