Two teenaged friends reunite in Cory Finley’s intriguing debut feature “Thoroughbreds”. As many of us can attest to, even the closest childhood friendships are like a vapor with no guarantees to last. But sometimes, even unexpectedly, old friendships can be rekindled. Such is the case for the film’s two upper-class Connecticut teens Amanda and Lily.
Serving as both writer and director, Finley originally penned “Thoroughbreds” as a stageplay. You can see elements of those roots throughout the film – the emphasis on language, the framing of certain shots, holding them a few seconds longer that normal. It works well within the framework of this unusual thriller/black comedy which has drawn comparisons to “American Psycho” and the even the iciest Hitchcock.
Olivia Cooke (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”, “Ready Player One”) plays the eccentric and seemingly emotionless Amanda. She’s been through the rounds with psychiatrists after an animal cruelty charge and now her mother feels she needs more interaction with her peers. Mom secretly hires Amanda’s one-time childhood friend Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy of “The Witch” and “Split”) to hang out and be her tutor. Lily is perceived to be the “normal one” of the two – smart and popular with the ‘in’ crowd at school.
Normally a social flower and a pariah aren’t the most compatible pair, but as Amanda and Lily spend more time together their psychological bond becomes more evident. A key turning point in their friendship centers around Lily’s cold, abrasive stepfather (Paul Sparks). Lily detests him, Amanda flippantly recommends killing him, Lily scoffs at the idea. But is Amanda really serious? What happens when Lily has second thoughts? From there the story moves forward in full blue-blooded psychological thriller mode
While both Cooke and Taylor-Joy are interesting and expressive young actresses who truly nail down their characters, Anton Yelchin shines the brightest. It’s a small role but possibly the most genuine and sympathetic. He also gives us a breather from the film’s effective yet steadily acidic tone. Yelchin plays Tim, a low-level drug pusher with big aspirations. He’s as naive as he is pathetic which makes him the perfect stooge for the girl’s on again/off again master plan.
Despite dancing close the line of genre predictability, “Thoroughbreds” never crosses it and it has enough originality to feel uncomfortably fresh. The sound design, the visual style, its obvious noir roots – it all plays together nicely. The result is a half-batty movie that takes the problems of the young and privileged and gives them a violent shake. Where do all the pieces land? You’ll have to watch to find out.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS
I really liked this film. Notably for its ensemble as well as its exploration of friendship between two young women.
It really surprised me. On paper it sounds pretty silly and uninspired. It’s far from uninspired.
I really liked this and you’re right about Anton, he was great in that small role.
Loved Anton here. He’s not a squeaky clean character by any stretch, but he’s so genuine and sympathetic.
Solid review Keith. I keep seeing this title pop up on On Demand the last several times I’ve been browsing but just haven’t pulled the trigger. I think I’ll really dig this, plus Anton Yelchin being in it just adds a touch of bittersweetness. Still have trouble accepting his passing, man . . .
Give it a look. On the surface it looks like an easy movie to toss aside. But I really does march to its own weird little beat. Gets pretty crazy.
I really liked this one, it was very well made and the cinematography and the score made it feel unique. Anya is so great, I hope she gets to start in tons of great movies and not wastes of time like Glass and New Mutants
It completely caught me by surprise. I love it when movies do that!