In its telling of a fascinating real-life story about the against-the-odds experiences of a remarkable woman, I, Tonya has much in common with Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game. Both feature thwarted sporting ambition, pushy parents and gender-specific persecution as key narrative themes, and both are fuelled by smart writing, skilled direction and exceptional performances. Technically, both utilise fast cuts, intimate camerawork, an evocative soundtrack and effective voice over, though I, Tonya takes the latter to greater extremes by having characters speak directly to camera at opportune moments.
While seemingly at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, horror and comedy can make for extremely comfortable bedfellows. Laughter and terror are two of the most visceral responses a filmmaker can hope to elicit from an audience and, when traversed correctly, the ground between them can prove dramatically fertile.
As a filmmaker, Darren Aronofsky has never been one to shy away from the extremes of human behaviour, whether exploring its darkest heart, exposing its deepest psychosis or celebrating its brightest achievements. His latest, mother!, is thematically similar to his Oscar-winning Black Swan, in that it embraces both the lure and lunacy of artistic ambition. Whereas Black Swan was a beguiling, beautifully crafted psychological drama, however, this is an infuriating exercise of cacophonous style over substance.