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Fire and Ice

Film may change minds about Tonya Harding


"I, Tonya," a new movie about the most notorious ice capade in figure-skating history, may inspire viewers to do a reverse triple-axel on their opinion of Tonya Harding, who allegedly orchestrated the 1994 kneecapping of rival Nancy Kerrigan.

The biopic, opening in theaters nationwide on Friday, stars Margot Robbie of "Suicide Squad" as Harding, whose husband and bodyguard were ultimately convicted of the attack. Harding pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution and was banned from her sport for life.

But the real story is more complicated than the era's media reports, which depicted an Olympic showdown between a jealous white-trash skater and a stuck-up ice princess.

Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers calls the movie "a raunchy, demented, dark-comic dazzler."

"'I, Tonya' is funny as hell," he concludes, "but the pain is just as real. You'll laugh till it hurts."

Allison Janney, who plays Harding's mother, says the documentary approach directed by Craig Gillespie ("Lars and the Real Girl") has the power to change minds nearly 25 years later. She empathized with Harding when they met.

"I just wanted to give her a hug," Janney said on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," "'cause back when we first heard about this story we were told what to think about her and we were told she was a villain.

"Actually, it was more complicated than that," the actress added, "And I think people come away with a lot more compassion for her."

Janney also reports that "I, Tonya" has already received an enthusiastic thumb's up from Harding herself.

"She loved the movie," said Janney.

Photo: Neon