Thoroughbreds | Cory Finley | March 9, 2018
Amanda (Olivia Cooke) and Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) are former childhood best friends who reside in an upper-class part of Connecticut (most likely meant to be Greenwich) who suddenly reconnect years later as young adults. After a mysterious violent incident involving a horse, her peers at her school consider her to be a sociopath. Amanda’s mom sets up a “study” session with her old friend in order to try and get her out of the house and connecting with another human. Thing is, Amanda feels nothing emotionally and is brutally honest about it, to a fault. Lily, on the other hand, radiates wealth and smarts, but she has her fair share of problems and deep under the surface that she feels a bit too much.
These two former friends come back together to form an unlikely bond over hatred of Lily’s stepdad Mark (Paul Sparks), who is every rich asshole stereotype rolled into one lavish house. He’s the sort of guy who has a rowing machine upstairs and a lavish tennis court in his own backyard. After the two friends joke about the what-ifs of killing Mark, the two start to come around to the idea of setting it in motion. They soon rope local drug dealer, Tim (Anton Yelchin), into their deadly web cornering him into helping them, even though he senses that they’re all way in over their heads.
The screenplay is deliciously dark and humorous in a twisted way that only a black comedy can be. Fans of Yorgos Lanthimos should look no further; Finley’s script is right up your alley. Both Amanda and Lily aren’t exactly the most likable characters, but instead operate in this shade of grey. This and the great performances by both Cooke and Taylor-Joy is what makes them all the more interesting even though you don’t even know whether you’re with them or not. Interestingly enough, Tim is supposed to be the low-life scumbag of the bunch as a drug dealer who sells to teenagers, yet you find yourself feeling more sympathetic for him by the time he’s done interacting with his new lady friends. Again, this is in large part to the charismatic performance from the late Anton Yelchin who takes what could’ve been a one-note forgettable performance and elevates it to something much, much more.
Thoroughbreds was originally meant to be the next play written by playwright Cory Finley. But he soon found that the ideas had too many cinematic aspects to ignore and soon crafted it into a screenplay. The fact that this is Finley’s first foray into movie-making is completely impressive as it’s a sleek looking film with a specific tone and style (captured by cinematographer Lyle Vincent) that is every bit as crucial as every written word spoken by its on-point cast or the pointed and often subtlely creepy score from composer Erik Friedlander. And every word is worthy of note and plays a crucial role in each and every plot development. The fact that he is able to bring it to life in such a flashy fully-realized manner is what makes this such an impressive debut offering.
Finley takes his time table-setting and offers a delicately paced film that takes its time letting these characters engage in long wild discussions in one location. Other confident choices (showing any or all violence off-screen) may not be for all viewers, but for those who are willing to play ball and go all in on Thoroughbreds‘ philosophy, they will be rewarded with a wild viewing experience. Its ending may not wrap up in quite a fashion that everyone will want or expect, but it’s sure to keep audiences debating its meaning or messages long after the end credits roll.