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- Chipper F. Xavier, Esq.
Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a spoiled, rich kid in Connecticut, living the good life at home with her mother and step-dad Mark (Paul Sparks). When her former friend Amanda (Olivia Cooke), a social misfit, is in need of tutoring for college entrance exams, the two girls rekindle their friendship and bond over their shared dislike of Lily's step-dad. Unfortunately, Mark blindsides Lily by threatening to send her to a boarding school far from home, and the girls decide to take matters into their own hands, with disastrous results.
Thoroughbreds is clearly a masterpiece - even when it reveals the disgusting viscera which lies beneath the most attractive human beings. Is "pretty" only something we wear? Is "good" a thing we can see? Do the good guys always wear white? Or is our civility really a mask that we put on and remove at will? Cooke as Amanda clearly and expertly challenges our perceptions as the token sociopath, while Anton Yelchin, in his final screen performance as Tim, rounds out the roster of deplorable characters as a statutory rapist and drug-czar-to-teenagers.
But wait - just when you think you know the direction writer-director Cory Finley wants to take us, the plot shifts, and the true monster is revealed. Cooke and Taylor-Joy shine throughout this lushly filmed nightmare as privileged girls who refuse to succumb to the banality of their exclusive lifestyle. Their acting is effortless and convincing, which makes this story all the more insidious. The genius behind this film is self-evident, but like many great works of art, it proves a bitter pill to swallow in the end.
Olivia Cooke (ME AND EARLY AND THE DYING GIRL) stars as Amanda, someone who walks a miniscule line between neurotic and psychopath. The startling and quite ominous opening features Amanda, a horse, and a large knife. Next, and some time later, we see Amanda re-connecting with her childhood friend and boarding school brainiac Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy, SPLIT and THE WITCH) in what appears to be a tutoring session being held in the palatial estate where Lily lives with her mother and "evil" stepdad Mark (Paul Sparks).
What follows is the mind-bending, winding-road of us attempting to fit either or both of these characters into some "normal" category of human behavior. Instead, what lies beneath is slowly unsheathed. As Amanda and Lily interact, we especially come to realize that Amanda is drawing out what's behind the proper front that Lily wears on a daily basis. A plot to murder the stepdad is developed, and caught in the wicked web is Anton Yelchin as Tim, a dreamer and schemer who quickly realizes the trouble these two bring. This was one of the last roles Yelchin filmed before his tragic death. His brief time on screen here reminds us of his immense talent.
An atmosphere of dread and pending doom hovers over most every scene, yet somehow it's simultaneously funny and disturbing. We find ourselves asking if it's OK to laugh at some of the exchanges. As Amanda explains she's "not a bad person", the line makes us chuckle, while also making us realize she actually believes it and we shouldn't! As she teaches her tutor Lily "the technique", we become convinced the line has been crossed into psychopathy.
Suburban Connecticut and its corresponding privileged life has rarely generated more queasy feelings, and with our hope for humanity in the balance, we watch Amanda and Lily bounce from plotting to problem solving and from conspiring to collaborating. The absence of empathy goes beyond disconcerting and into a feeling of resolved fear. The lack of emotions and empathy can be more frightening than vampires or fictional monsters.
Cinematographer Lyle Vincent does nice work displaying this world, and he will always deserve a mention after his sterling work on 2014's A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT. The dark, twisted work is well accompanied by the abrupt and jarring music, and filmmaker Finley deserves recognition for crafting this creepy corner of a universe none of us want to join. His film is in the vein of something Yorgos Lanthimos (THE LOBSTER) might deliver, and that's quite high praise for oddity ... in fact, Odin Impetus Lowe even gets a screen credit, and he's the opening scene horse!
"Thoroughbreds" is a very slow-paced drama about two girls who hatch a plan to murder Lily's (played by Anya) stepfather. There is not much, or really any, excitement or action in this film, and there are only two distinct scenes that I can remember where there is a slight sense of suspense - there is a scene towards the end that is especially suspenseful, but again, it still plays out in a slow, deliberate, methodical manner. There is almost never a sense of urgency in any scene, even though there might be a sense of urgency to the characters in the specific situation that they're in. Each scene plays out slowly, with some scenes ending just before they start to drag. All of this is in contrast to the slickly and quickly edited trailer that was used to market the film. And if you've read my reviews at all, you know I enjoy slow films, as it gives the viewer time to reflect and absorb what they're watching. However, most slow films pick up towards the end. "Thoroughbreds" does not. But I think there is a point to that.
You see, this movie made me feel nothing; emotionally, I felt indifferent towards it when it ended. Like literally, I had zero emotional response during this entire film. And I think that was the point. Both characters (well, at least one of them) are borderline psychopaths, and since psychopaths are incapable of feeling emotion, the movie itself is purposefully emotionally stagnant to ensure that you feel no emotion either while watching it. But is that a good thing? It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't make for an enjoyable viewing experience, but again, I think that's the point. If you understand that going in then you'll have a much better idea of what to expect when stepping into the theatre.
I do want to mention the score and the gorgeous, beautiful, incredible tracking shots this film had. Maybe I'm a sucker for good camera work, but the tracking shots this movie had were amazing and had my jaw on the floor. And coupled with the score? Good god, it was almost orgasmic in its beauty. But in all honestly, for the first 30 minutes of "Thoroughbreds," the score is used very, very minimally. And by minimally, I mean there are long stretches of time where there is no music. This is not a negative at all - it actually added to the mysterious and menacing vibe the film intended to give off, but when the music does kick in, it's gorgeous, at times loud and intense and animalistic, kind of like the soundtrack to "Raw." Basically, what I'm trying to say is that whenever there is any music, or a lack thereof, it does nothing except enhance what you're watching.
I was honestly super excited to watch this movie. I loved the trailer, and I'm basically in love with Anya Taylor-Joy, so my expectations were sky high. And I'll be honest, the film didn't live up to my expectations, but that's my fault for setting them so high. And even right now, I'm not entirely sure how I felt about this movie. The directing and cinematography were top-notch, the acting was good, if a bit unrealistic (I felt like no one really acted like a real person would act, but I think that was intentional), the score was very nice, and the premise and story is intriguing and interesting to the very end. But this movie made me have no emotional response whatsoever. I felt no joy, or sadness, or anger, or anything for one hour and thirty-two minutes. But I didn't hate this film at all. I enjoyed watching it, and I don't necessarily regret my time in the theatre, but I because of the lack of any emotional I can't give this movie more than a 5 out of 10. It is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, it's just an emotionless one.
The pacing of the film is even more off-putting. Also, despite being advertised as a comedy, Thoroughbreds is so matter of fact and grim, I couldn't decipher what was supposed to be funny from what was supposed to be dead serious. That was entirely the point, but I found myself scratching my head more than enjoying the nuance.
Apart from being Anton Yelchin's final film, it's well worth watching because it shows a very rare sort of person...but one who does exist out there and could potentially be a danger to others. Fascinating throughout with some standout performances...my only quibble, and it's a little one, is that the resolution at the end seemed a bit hard to believe...entertaining but hard to believe.
Anya Taylor Joy and Olivia Cooke have excellent chemistry together as Lily and Amanda, merely from how they reconnect after years of being apart. Although different personality wise, the subtle humor derives from said contrasts, such as Cooke's dry hilarity and emotionless stature, and Taylor-Joy's conflicting role as a young woman trying to cope with her terrible step-father. Many scenes consist of the two, and while slow at times, they really help make the audience uncertain in how they'll remind friends. Despite that, their friendship is genuine, and while the content is dark, the film surprisingly handles the gruesome parts offscreen. In an age where horror directors try to be shocking for the hell of it, Finley respects the audience enough to keep them disturbed without going too far when not needed.
As for the acting, Anya Taylor-Joy does a splendid job adding in angst and frustration to a rich girl who debates whether she wants to get rid of her step father, and it's great how she gets them out from her interactions with Olivia Cooke who triggers emotional stigmas in her. Also, Cooke feels quite reminiscent to Winona Ryder's Veronica Sawyer from her distraught presence, and even Anton Yelchin (sadly in his last role) practically screams Christian Slater's J.D. from the unanticipated layers within Tim that he delivers. Some of the funniest moments come from his interactions with Amanda and Lily, but even then he shows signs of humanity when getting in their troubled situations. Paul Sparks keeps his role rather nuanced while coming off as condescending and bitter, and it's not hard to root for Lily to get rid of him.
The actual humour is much more subtle than one would imagine, especially compared to the off the wall ludicrousness of Heathers. Where Heathers strove for campiness, Thoroughbreds chooses to keep things subdued and practical, which fits in the realistic tension between the arches between Lily and Amanda. Even the music score by Erik Freidlander comes off as eerie without screaming itself out, as it balances the realistic albeit creepy tone of the film when needed, aided by well shot scenes that add quiet gloominess and tension.
Finally, the film is only ninety minutes long, making it's goal short, sweet and straight to the point. Too many films today run longer than needed, but this movie knows how long it needs and it keeps the momentum moving at just the right length, even if some moments are a little slow. And that's the best way to describe this movie, subtle, slow, and entertaining enough without going too overboard or too long in its tone or length. While not the greatest teen drama, Thoroughbreds offers enough quiet atmosphere, amusing moments, and solid interactions with splendid actors to keep audiences enticed to wonder what will happen. By bringing us into a world of sterile mansions and girls who want to put the law into their own hands to add something new in their life, this film will definitely mark as a solid directorial debut for Corey Finley as he progresses with his tropes and characters to make even better films in the future.
Ultimately this will appeal to filmgoers who like to be manipulated by technique instead of told a story. Even the deus ex machine ending is such a cop out that everyone left the screening shaking their heads.
The film is about a girl named Lily who spends time with her schoolmate Amanda. Lily realizes that Amanda has no emotion; she does not feel empathy, happiness, and can fake cry using "the technique." Lily hates her stepfather who is emotionally abusive. Lily and Amanda decide to plan the murder of the stepfather and even go as far as to enlist the help of a small time drug dealer through blackmail. Of course, things aren't as easy as it seems and the plan is problematic.
Finley's film doesn't exactly tread any ground that film lovers like me haven't seen before but it does a lot right. The film is stylistically alluring in the way that its shot and the way it portrays a dark and somber atmosphere. This is also complimented by a jarring score. Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke are already budding young actresses and it is no surprise that both are in tune in Thoroughbreds. The film has violent events occur but never really depicts those scenes which keeps the film clean despite its very dark nature.
Rich people and their problems at full display here. Its slow and slightly funny but is a fun watch nonetheless. It was also nice to see Anton Yelchin here in his abrupt final film role. I don't expect a whole many people to have heard of or go out of their way to watch this film. Its great though. Something that may have a cult status in a few years and something I might want to re-visit. Side note, the film posters for this film are phenomenal.
The Visuals in this movie are amazing, I'm surprised that this is Cory Finely's first movie! He has a very cool style of directing and I'm looking forward to see what he does in the future.
Some things that I don't like in this movie is the way the background themes are brought back up at the end it's very subtle yet overbearing at the same time because a lot of it was not even remotely hinted at throughout the movie. Also a lack of character arcs from our 2 amazing lead actresses Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke who did amazing jobs. The only thing that we remotely get to a character arc is hearing how they were in the past which works very well and sits well with me, but it only happens little throughout the span of the movie.
Many people going to see this expecting Heathers or Mean Girls will be disappointed, this is a much more smart movie than you typical edgy teen drama.
8/10 for me
The directing is hardly the only aspect of this film worth praising. The casting is also so perfect, it's near unbelievable. Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy are more than impressive, they're unforgettable. And the locations, mansions mostly, provide an imposing setting for their dramatic scenes.
This is a wonderful movie with only minor problems, the saddest of which is that this is probably Anton Yelchin's last film. It's possible some may find it too stressful for a night's entertainment, but I was so happy to see the level of skill on display, I was enthralled.
While the "psychopathic rich kid" genre is not exactly untouched territory, "Thoroughbreds," in the hands of first time writer-director Cory Finley, manages to emerge from its presentation as a breath of fresh air. Credit must first be given to the film's absolutely tremendous cast; Olivia Cooke completely immerses herself into the role of pseudo-sociopath Amanda, Anya Taylor-Joy is delightfully chilling as Lily, the "rich kid" on the verge of emotional breakdown, and Anton Yelchin, in what is tragically his last film role, provides much laughter as the pathetic yet ambitious drug dealer Tim.
"Thoroughbreds," I would argue, is most realized when certain character moments and shifts are captured. For instance, there is a brief moment when Lily is awakened by the loud sound of her rich stepfather Mark's (Paul Sparks) workout machine, which is represented by zooming in on her eye as it opens. This simple camera zoom, combined with a building score, relays with uneasy grace that Lily's initial apprehension is faltering. Much later in the film, when Amanda discovers that her drink had been laced with Rohypnol, her expression is caught for the first time showing an emotion-shock and surprise, suggesting that she, too, is vulnerable, more so than she likely thinks herself to be.
Cory Finley also proves himself to be a master at subverting expectations. Up to its final ten minutes, "Thoroughbreds" is laced with hints suggesting that Amanda, who "feels nothing", is the likely culprit. However, it is ultimately Lily, who "feels everything," who commits the horrifying act, the result of her extreme emotions getting the better of her. Considering the type of world she comes from, one where problems can be solved by simply calling the family lawyer, and how that contrasts to Amanda's more calculated nature, it's easy to see, in hindsight, why Lily would be the one to go through with the plan.
If I have any complaints about "Thoroughbreds," they are few and far between. Perhaps Tim could have been granted a little more screen, but even then the reasons for keeping him out of much of the film, up until the end, are fairly sensible. My only outright disagreement is with the film's use of chapters-they temporarily slow down its momentum, and I personally do not like being reminded that I am watching a movie.
Nevertheless, "Thoroughbreds," in closing, is an engaging and effective thriller packed with impressive performances, a surprising grasp on score and cinematography, and the vision of a director that gives a breath of fresh air to treaded ground.
Two slick chicks from upper-class Connecticut, renewing a friendship, plan to murder an obnoxious step dad. Not that he doesn't deserve to be out of the picture because of his abusive attitude, mental more than anything else. It's just that he doesn't deserve to die; rather he needs mom to divorce him or some such. However, these girls are strange, Amanda (Olivia Cooke) talking like a robot with no affect because of a considerable drama with her horse and Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy), wide-eyed receptive to Amanda's amorality and suggestion for dad Mark's (Paul Sparks) permanent removal. Both speak with a distant emotion to be almost other worldly. Neither is stable. First-time director Corey Finley firmly keeps the tone and motifs in the lite-horror mode as the young off-center ladies plot the complicated process of murder. Meanwhile we are amused by a horse motif as Amanda describes the death of her beloved Honeymooner at her own hands. Shades of Equus not National Velvet. The tone is hard-boiled neo-noir, Twilight Zone and Strangers on a Train with a side of Double Indemnity, a form of strange naughtiness. To help us stay real, the writer/director introduces small time hood, Tim , played by the late Anton Yelchin with the right cluelessness of a minor drug dealer who's done time. Like the girls, he lives in an altered world, born of prison, and they of wealth that allows them to offer him $100K to murder step dad. Thoroughbreds is a juicy dark comedy that not only keeps the audience guessing about the girls' whopper idea but also keeps it amused by their removal from reality. In reality, this is a case of "good breeding gone bad," for horse and girls alike. Yes, murder is real enough.
Unexplainable violence is always something that has fascinated audiences. It's not something to be taken lightly, but there's no denying there's some sort of obscure appetite for films involving violent action without real reason behind it, like 2 films that the film is being compared to (American Psycho and Heathers). And like those films, Thoroughbreds takes a dark comedy approach to the violent premise, to mostly effective results.
When I go into a movie experience like Thoroughbreds, one of the things I always look for is to be entertained but also surprised. Not necessarily by the events of the plot, but by the way the story is told. With Thoroughbreds, I loved the way Cory Finley positioned his direction to be refreshing and detailed. There's never a huge WTF scene with huge action, but the thrills come by a calm sense of tension, and by the unsettling performances from Olivia Cooke as Amanda and Anya Taylor-Joy as Lily. It's not a surprise to see either do well, but I loved watching them outdo each other in each respective scene.
Right out of the gate with his debut feature, Finley demonstrates an assured directorial style that sets a thick, fully-realized tone and sticks to it. He already seems to have such a comfortable command over the visual language of film, utilizing inventive cinematography and camera movements to create a unique style. Unlike many first-time directors who tend to get carried away in the excitement of making their first feature, Finley also demonstrates an impressive amount of restraint. The film feels careful, measured, and mature - every moment considered and intentional. And that attribute extends to the screenplay which is able to continually and subtly change our perception of its main character, Lily, as it progresses. By the time we reach the conclusion, we're forced to reflect on her character and perhaps see her actions throughout the film in a new light. I've loved Anya Taylor-Joy in everything I've seen her in and this film is no exception - she's a real talent with a mesmerizing star quality that certainly bolsters the film. Olivia Cooke is excellent as Amanda as well.
As far as criticisms go, at times the measured, calculated feel of the film can become a bit patience-testing. Although there is a lot of subtlety in the character development, the plot at large does come off as feeling a tad slight and there are stretches of the film where you may have a nagging feeling that not much is happening. Also, while the social commentary is clearly there, it is perhaps a bit undercooked. The ending monologue by Amanda attempts to bring the themes into greater focus, but it's a little too late to feel substantial. Although it didn't fully resonate on an initial viewing for me, there is still so much to admire in this debut. It's confident, visionary, and, despite its shortcomings, memorable, forecasting an interesting career ahead for its creator.
Cory Finley job behind the camera is phenomenal ! His vision is amazing and Thoroughbreds is definetly a movie that will be remembered as a cult-classic for sure !
Still the biggest thing the movie as accomplished besides the performances, as to be it's deep cutting edge of teeling a dark sureal story of rich people in the last decade. Such as how, even with all the money they have they are not necessary happy, and may even be in real pain. Money can't buy hapiness !
So basically in my opinion this movie is easily one of the finest title we will get this year, and just a quick thing, the official trailer of Thouroughbreds is easily *THE BEST* trailer I have ever seen in my life ! Props to the poster's too. And the most important thing to remember is how good Anya Taylor-Joy is !
Former childhood friends Amanda and Lily, who were once connected by their love of horseback riding as kids, are reunited when Amanda kills her family's prized horse for unknown reasons. With Lily taking the paid job of being Amanda's tutor, it eventually leads to their lost friendship being repaired and a plot being hatched to murder Lilly's obnoxious and rude step-father Mark.
Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy just own the screen with the energy and charisma they bring to their performances. Olivia Cooke brings a large amount dimension to her cold, sociopathic character Amanda despite that she lacks human emotions. Her approach to uncomfortable situations during conversations leads to a lot of the film's deadpan and dark humour. But she can also be a chameleon of faking heart-warming emotions when she wants to hide her troubled nature. As a fan of hers since her breakout in The Witch, Anya Taylor-Joy continues to impress me. As Lily, she puts on this perfect nice girl persona but deep down has this unstable emotion that is waiting to burst out. Her resentment towards her stepfather comes from her own denial of how flawed she really is as a person. Once their murder plan is set, you see Amanda's lack of morality in taking a life clash with Lily's judgement being misguided by her resentment, pride and anger. With this as his final performance before his passing, the late Anton Yelchin delivers one I won't forget. His charm just oozes on screen as the drug-dealer Tim hired by Lily and Amanda to pull the trigger on Mark. Tim feels that he deserves a wealth lifestyle more then Amanda and Lily because their wealth was inherited rather then earned. However, he is not prepared for how cunning and manipulative these girls can be.
The remarkable thing about Cory Finley's direction and writing (especially as this is his first feature film before it was originally made to be a stage play) is how well he creates tension throughout the scenes with just dialogue and pacing. Without having to show any violence or gore on screen, Finley uses very descriptive disturbing dialogue, careful framing and pacing to make your skin crawl. Finley's direction feels like it would be very appropriate for a Stephen King horror adaptation.
Thoroughreds is a great feature debut by Finley followed by two great performances from Cooke and Taylor-Joy. If you are into this kind of dark twisted comedies and dramas then this is worth giving a look at.
Thoroughbreds follows two young women as they reconnect after years of slowly growing apart. Throughout the first two acts, this is a very odd and quirky piece of independent cinema that takes some weird turns. Planning some very dark things together in order to solve their issues, they meet some very strange people along the way, making for some very interesting character development and revelations. I felt quite unnerved at times and the final act of this film had me cringing, and not necessarily in a good or bad way. This movie asks quite a lot of its audience as it draws to a close, but if you're sucked into this story, then you may just find yourself going along with it.
Anya Taylor Joy continues to prove that she is a star in the making. Appearing in films such as Split, The Witch, and even Morgan, audiences around the world continue to be blown away by her performances. That being said, I don't think people give Olivia Cooke the credit she deserves. Appearing in movies like Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl and the recent Ready Player One, I believe she will have her big, big break one day. These two young actresses were perfectly cast in these roles and I bought into their off-beat and strange history together.
I felt a sense of sadness watching this film as well, seeing as it was the final appearance in a film by Anton Yelchin, and he really brings his all to this role. He's only in a few scenes throughout this movie, but he has some powerful moments. His character provides far more emotional weight to the film than I was expecting. The way his character meets these girls and intertwines his own life with theirs was a very interesting revelation.
In terms of the way this film is filmed and edited, I would be lying if I didn't feel I was watching perfection. These filmmakers set up some very unique shots and the way certain takes linger on specific things or characters in order to provide subtle answers for the audience was terrific. Thoroughbreds isn't for everyone, especially due to the way the movie boldly concludes, but I do believe there is a niche audience out there for it.
In the end, Thoroughbreds is the type of film that is right up my alley and may even make it into the discussion of my favorites movies of 2018, but I would definitely need to explain myself. I can see many viewers losing interest due to its slow pace or being turned off by the twists and turns it takes, but I truly believe the decision these characters make, made for a great film experience. If you're up for anything, then I would highly recommend checking this one out. Strange, unique, well-written, and downright cathartic.