I, Tonya

Dir. Craig Gillespie

Life has enough obstacles without marrying one, but that is exactly what the waitress and ice skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) slid into when she married John Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). “Fuck dumb. Don't marry dumb,” utters Harding's mother, LaVona, with seemingly one of the most motherly pieces of advice in this fascinating tale. Tonya may be at the heart of the story, but Allison Janney's performance as LaVona almost steals the show, but it is merely one of a number of memorable performances.

The story of Harding's infamous rise to becoming the second best known person in the world after Bill Clinton skates along as briskly and cutting as the blades on ice, thanks to a sharp, incisive script by Steven Rogers, which wastes barely a sentence. The story may centre on Harding’s part in “the incident” that involved her rival Nancy Kerrigan undergoing a form of kneecapping, but some of the best dialogue is delivered by Janney, who deserves her Oscar success for best supporting actress.

Whether or not what she said is true is another thing, but as someone once said, ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story’, and I, Tonya is a good yarn, one that reinforces the belief that truth is stranger than fiction. If this was merely a piece of fiction, then no one would believe the incompetence or outright stupidity that accompanied Harding's husband's short-sighted attempt to literally cripple her rival.

The tale has lashings of black humour and there is a darker side that says, if your face doesn’t fit, then, irrespective of your ability, you will always be an outsider. Yet the subtext is equally effective as the main storyline: If you are not viewed as part of the establishment then skill is not enough to get the backing you need. A $5,000 outfit trumps mediocrity. The closing scene in which Tonya is trampled by the establishment is chilling and powerful.

Harding was the first female skater to perform a triple axel, a move so complex and daring that repeated viewing leaves non-skaters wondering how the laws of physics can seemingly be defied. Margot Robbie shines in the role as she rides the rollercoaster towards achieving a shot at an Olympic title whilst exchanging physical blows with her husband and verbal ones from her mother.

Skating was her life and taking part in an Olympic final a dream come true, irrespective of the outcome. The rink was where she was free to be herself. But, as Tonya relays, when Kerrigan stood on the podium to collect her silver medal, “She looked like she had stood in poo”.

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You Were Never Really Here

Dir. Lynne Ramsay

As I left the cinema, I was asked a question. “Excuse me. Have you just watched You Were Never Really Here? If so, can you tell me what it was about?" That may give the reader an insight of how the paying public feel towards the film.

Well, Joe, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a bit of a loner. He lives with his mum and enjoys a bit of minor self-asphyxiation. For regular film-goers, that last sentence houses at least two well-known film reference points in Psycho and Blue Velvet. No oranges were harmed in the making of the film.

Alongside helping his ailing mother, he gets a bit of pocket money by savaging people with a hammer, one made in the US. Trump will be so proud the American steel industry is surviving.

So Joe is hired to help a politician find his daughter (Ekaterina Samsonov), who has been kidnapped by a child sex slave ring.

At this point, the Glaswegian director, Lynne Ramsay, asks us to follow an increasingly annoying American trait of asking her audience to suspend common sense. It’s already hard enough to believe that a hitman, who never uses gloves in order to attempt to hide evidence, is quite comfortable with leaving oodles of evidence on CCTV, but has never been captured.

And so the twist kicks in. The body count rises. Joe is mentally tortured by flashbacks to his youth. Phoenix looks dark, moody and doesn't utter much. When he tries to - and it does seem to take a superhuman effort - it's almost inaudible. Mumble-core thrives and a place beckons in a BBC One production. More blood is spilt, sometimes from a knife, sometimes from a gun.

How does that sound for a film outline? Unfortunately, I was really there.

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Game Night

Dirs. John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein

After all the highbrow and worthy films that have taken up so much screen time in an attempt to grab an Oscar, it’s time to enjoy a bit of slapstick humour where the jokes arrive faster than someone test driving a sports car along an airport runway.

That opportunity is Game Night, a film that knowingly references other films, with the exception of its closest comparative, The Game, starring Michael Douglas. Whereas that was set in a darker, more threatening environment, Game Night is a carousel of visual and audio gags thanks to scriptwriter Mark Perez. Some may miss the point, but when one does another follows right behind.

It’s based around Jason Bateman (Max) and Rachel McAdams (Annie), who play an ultra-competitive married couple who bounce and interact with a huge degree of warmth. The central plot is set around a regular get-together of three couples who play everything from Scrabble to Jenga.

Things escalate when Brooks (Kyle Chandler), Max's brother, turns up. He plays the elder sibling who knows it all and has the money and lifestyle to prove it. Several plotlines are interwoven, as this introduction indirectly flows into why Max and Annie have not yet become parents, as wonderfully pointed out by the doctor in attendance. One scene that involves a pair of tweezers and a squeaky toy would bring a smile to even the frostiest face.

There is an appearance from Sharon Horgan, who continues to deliver her dry, sardonic humour, as demonstrated in Catastrophe, to great effect. The scene where she tries to point out to an American that she’s not British, but Irish, both highlights the understanding between the nations and realises a wry smile.

Although the plot does get a bit preposterous, there are enough laughs to keep you going to the end.

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