I, TONYA. In aging and being slowly, reluctantly drawn into what someone decided to call adulthood, I have developed what I consider a cagey defense that some might consider paranoia regarding those most dangerous among us: the Dumbass and the Devious.
Dumbass, devious people, in my experience, possess what I would call a gift for turning their often clinically insignificant intellect toward the fulfillment of their own villainous ends (the Office of the President of the United States being one example). An innate lack of curiosity, usually twinned with an absence of empathy, allows formidable focus — a dogged, singular drive toward their own often ill-defined and harmful goal. Their success rate is deeply troubling.
I, Tonya, written by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, 2007; Million Dollar Arm, 2014), is populated largely by the Dumbass and the Devious, and examines the shambolic, near-accidental nature of their "success" in harming others and undoing their decades of hard work. (It was, of course, also one of the more talked about releases of last year, but not much to be done about that.)
Told in kinetic flashback and framed by reenacted interview footage with Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) and her abusive ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), the movie describes Harding's gradual ascent, from hardscrabble beginnings — thanks to the ministrations of her drunken, spiteful mother LaVona Golden (Allison Janney) — to the upper echelon of competitive figure skating. Her success is tempered by the fact that she can't seem to stay away from Gillooly, whose presence in her life and association with the incalculably delusional Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) eventually lead to her professional undoing.
Some not-unfair comparisons have been drawn between the style of I, Tonya and that of Goodfellas (1990): There are pop-rock songs on the soundtrack, tracking shots and scenes of domestic strife aplenty. The similarities are enough to make it occasionally difficult not to think of the earlier movie, but the aesthetic also fits Tonya's perpetually dingy, seedy, autumnally lit Portland, Oregon milieu. This is a movie very much of the '80s and early '90s, and the feel of the time and place is palpable.
Janney gives a stand-out performance, with Stan and Hauser doing commendable work just behind her. Robbie, a consummately capable actor, goes a little big here, leaning into Harding's sneer and perpetual blamelessness, but this may have more to do with the real-life figure than the performance. If any of us had abiding questions regarding the Harding/Kerrigan affair, I suppose this might answer some of them, but that hardly seems the point. I, Tonya works more toward the telling of a topical, painfully fractured version of the American dream, in which hard work and dedication can lead to great accomplishment and, in turn, be entirely undone by the machinations of the small and venal. R. 120m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINIPLEX.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, yet another of 2017's most-acclaimed, finally arrived on our hidden shores, tells a languorous, minutely observed story of first love and loss, and I haven't really made up my mind about it.
In 1983, "somewhere in northern Italy," (one of several indulgent tricks I assume screenwriter James Ivory retained from Andre Aciman's novel), the family of antiquities professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) summers in a delightfully decaying villa in the lush countryside. The professor busies himself with indeterminate work regarding Greek sculpture, for which he requires the assistance of a research assistant, in this summer's case the roguish Oliver (Armie Hammer). Polyglot Mrs. Perlman (Amira Casar) occupies herself mostly off-camera, leaving precocious, 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) largely to his own devices. He reads, swims, transcribes classical music, has an on-again off-again sexual relationship with charming Parisian Marzia (Esther Garrel) and gradually falls in love with Oliver.
The characters here, all impeccably played and constructed, live complex, full-blooded lives within a tactile and vividly imagined world; there doesn't seem to be a detail out of place, nothing to distract from the notion that this is taking place outside a small town in Italy in 1983. And the burgeoning relationship between the leads, charged with excitement and secrecy and the shame of new discovery, is often painfully real. The whole movie is suffused with a torturous, long-Sunday-afternoon quality: the feeling that something is ending, something less pleasant beginning.
But there is an element of indulgence here, from the meticulous details of the props and sets and costumes, to the occasional fancifully novelistic runs of dialogue, that can interrupt the immersive atmosphere and remind us that we are watching actors on a screen. (Those actors, to a one, do exquisite work, don't get me wrong.)
And then, of course, there was the tinny voice of long-suffering adolescent me, who had difficulty mustering much sympathy for Elio who, while raw and real, seems more like a smug conqueror with the world at his feet than a heartbroken teen. But we all suffer in our own way. R. 132m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
—John J. Bennett
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards› Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
15:17 TO PARIS. Clint Eastwood hikes his trousers up to direct the true tale of American servicemen who foiled a terrorist attack on a train in 2015. Instead of actors, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone star as themselves. With Jenna Fisher and Thomas Lennon. PG13. 94m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
FIFTY SHADES FREED. Sweet mother of fan fiction, this series is finally wrapping up. Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan and the high-end shower you fantasize about when you think about renovating the downstairs. R. 101m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
PETER RABBIT. A live-action/CG animation comedy based on the Beatrix Potter books but with more electric fence gags. With James Corden voicing Peter, Domhnall Gleeson as Mr. McGregor and Rose Byrne as the rabbit-sympathizing object of the farmer's wooing. PG. 93m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
12 STRONG. Chris Hemsworth stars in a drama about a Special Forces unit sent to Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. With Michael Peña and Michael Shannon. R. 130m. BROADWAY.
DARKEST HOUR. Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill as a new prime minister of an England with little appetite for conflict on the cusp of war with Germany. Good news: If you saw Dunkirk, you get a pass on this one. With Kristin Scott Thomas. PG13. 125m. MINOR.
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN. Hugh Jackman sings and dances as P.T. Barnum, an abolitionist and social reformer who made his money off "freak shows" and minstrelsy. Michelle Williams and Zac Efron also star. Statue of Barnum on the Arcata Plaza unlikely. PG. 105m. BROADWAY.
HOSTILES. Despite strong performances, Scott Cooper's Western about a fearsome army captain (Christian Bale) transporting a dying Cheyenne chief (Wes Studi) and a traumatized woman (Rosamund Pike) lacks the moral ambiguity and bite its copious violence might otherwise convey. R. 134m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE. A remake of a 1995 Robin Williams vehicle that somehow combines Breakfast Club teen dynamics, body-swap comedies, aggressive hippos and The Rock's skeptical eyebrow? Sure, why not? PG-13. 119m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE. The last of the video game-inspired action series with a boy band of rebels, now freed from their maze, fighting an oppressive regime of lame adults who are sacrificing teens to find a cure for a deadly disease. Starring Dylan O'Brien and Rosa Salazar. PG13. 142m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THE PHANTOM THREAD. Paul Thomas Anderson directs Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps in a romance about a couturier who falls in love with his muse. Immersive settings, costumes and a nuanced story reward the viewer's patience. R. 130m. MINOR.
THE SHAPE OF WATER. Guillermo del Toro's exquisitely designed and executed love story/fable/tribute to monster movies of yesteryear showcases career-best performances from its cast, including Sally Hawkins as a mute woman who falls in love with an amphibian played by the lithe Doug Jones, with Michael Shannon as an evil scientist. R. 123m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. A sterling cast (Woody Harrelson, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Zeljko Ivanek and Peter Dinklage) does admirable work in a drama about a small-town murder but the film unravels in the last act. R. 115m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
WINCHESTER: THE HOUSE THAT GHOSTS BUILT. Guns don't kill; ghosts do. Tour 500 rooms (and counting) of haunted house with Helen Mirren in head-to-toe black lace as the heir to the Winchester rifle empire. With Jason Clarke as the doctor sent to assess her sanity. PG13. 99m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill and Linda Stansberry