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Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding

“I, TONYA” My rating: A-

120 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Everybody knows that spunky figure skater Tonya Harding was behind the plot to smash the knee of  her teammate and strongest competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. Right?

Well, maybe not. The astounding “I, Tonya” suggests that Harding  may not deserve her rap as the poster girl for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“Based on irony free, widely contradictory, totally true interviews” with the major participants (under the closing credits we see some of the actual news and police interview footage), this savage and breathtakingly entertaining black comedy from Craig Gillespie (“Lars and the Real Girl”) is also a powerful dramatic and emotional experience, one that forces a total reassessment of the Harding/Kerrigan affair.

By the time it’s over you don’t know whether to laugh or weep.

Along the way it gives Aussie glamor girl Margot Robbie the opportunity to display world-class acting chops as Tonya, while cementing Allison Janney’s reputation as the cinema’s greatest bad mother (we’re talking a perf that leaves “Mommie Dearest” in the dust).

Steven Rogers’ screenplay (a huge step up from his usual stuff…”Hope Floats,” “Stepmom,” “Love the Coopers”) centers on a series of recreated interviews with the main characters, illustrating their memories with flashbacks.

The tone is set early on with Janney’s appearance as LaVona, the stage mother from hell. She’s like a human skull beneath a Beatles wig with an ever-smoldering cigarillo. In the present-day interview scenes she always has a parakeet on her shoulder.

LaVona is a foul-mouthed waitress and (mostly) single mother who motivated her little athlete with psychological and occasional physical abuse. (“She skated better when enraged.”) She practically crows at the memory of  Tonya wading out onto the rink for the first time and blowing away the privileged little girls who had been at it for years. (“Those bitches didn’t know what hit them.”)

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