After watching Olivia Cooke in Ready Player One, enjoying her performance, but wishing I could see her in a meatier role like the one she played in Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, I decided to check out one of Tom’s favorite movies of the year, Thoroughbreds.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
The film follows Lily and her childhood friend Amanda, who are reconnecting in their childhood friendship which faded out after the death of Lily’s father. Amanda has long suffered from mania and depression and is something of a recluse. This is why Amanda’s mother pays Lily to rekindle their relationship after Amanda gets in trouble for killing her family’s horse with a knife when it falls ill.
Lily’s personal situation is not much better. She has been kicked out of a fancy boarding school and must face her mother’s emotionally abusive new husband, Mark. Rich, arrogant, and controlling, he has subverted the will of Lily’s vapid Connecticut mother and made Lily’s life unpleasant. I am not sure how unpleasant, but obviously enough that when Amanda recommends they kill him, Lily takes the plan seriously.
The pair recruit and blackmail a local small time drug dealer with a sordid history to be their gunman so they can be away with rock solid alibis. Their plans do not go as expected and the pair must figure out how to adjust to unforseen circumstances; which greatly tests their newly rekindled friendship.
The pairing of Anya Taylor-Joy (Split) and Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One) was enough to make this movie work on the most basic level. Taylor-Joy is the joyless WASP and Cooke embodies the dark side of poor mental health. They possess a strong chemistry in convincing us that their characters have uneven chemistry. That is harder than it sounds…
Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) also puts in a strong perfomance in his final role following his tragic death. His character Tim has delusions of grandeur that he can become the next Heisenberg of pot but in reality lives with his mother and parks cars on the weekend as a valet. Yelchin put so much heart and charm into a character that could have been a cliche bad guy role. He was a special actor and his untimely death denied fans many wonderful performances.
What also makes Thoroughbreds work is the mood that newcomer director Cory Finley creates for Taylor-Joy, Cooke, and Yelchin to play around with. Cellist Erik Friedlander greatly enhances the mood with a haunting musical score that creates incredible anxiety in the audience. Between Finley’s direction and Friedlander’s creative musical performance, you realize in the first scene that Amanda is so on edge that she might snap during a conversation as mundane as the right answer to a practice SAT question.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK:
While the mood Finley layered in was incredibly effective, sometimes it felt like he didn’t do enough with it to advance the story. There quite a few plodding scenes that really didn’t seem to go anywhere or land any punches. A slow pace can be effective, but a couple of moments felt like deadspots in the film; which is unusual for a movie with a short 1:30 run time.
I also wasn’t completly convinced that the villain of the piece, Lily’s stepdad Mark, was adequately villainous enough to turn a prep school princess into a would be murderer. Paul Sparks (The Greatest Showman) gave a fine performance but there seemed to be a missing piece required to take us down the dark path the film travels.
Unlike Heathers, a comedic, but spiritual predecessor of sorts, Thoroughbreds doesn’t offer any commentary on today’s generation that might have helped with the film’s problems. Maybe senseless disregard for human life was the point of the film, but I felt like there wasn’t a bridge to get the audience to that point. It seems like there was a missed opportunity to explore the millenial generation and what could lead these privileged girls to consider murder.
With Amanda it is understandable because her character is effectively established as having psychotic tendencies and serious mental health issues, but the film doesn’t explore enough about Lily’s reasoning and motivations. She just really hates him and decides to go along with Amanda’s idea.
There are some movies that you leave the theater unsure if you loved them or hated them. Divisive films like Snowpiercer or Collosal have had that effect on me. This wasn’t like that, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I felt about the movie right away. I knew I enjoyed Thoroughbreds, but what I didn’t know was whter I thought it was truly special upon leaving the theater.
I thought if I slept on it, woke up fresh, and contemplated the film once more, this movie might jump up into the category of a movie I really loved. It had a lot going for it after all. Sadly, with the light of a new day, I still merely like it. It is smart, well acted, fairly well directed, but it really doesn’t offer anything new or insightful into the human condition.
Overall, I give THOROUGHBREDS 8 “Roofied Drinks” out of 10.