REVIEW: 'Thoroughbreds' Starring Anya-Taylor Joy, Olivia Cooke, and Anton Yelchin
The greatest compliment that I can pay to Corey Finley’s new dark rollercoaster Thoroughbreds (2018), is that it's probably the best executed film within its genre. Before sitting through the film’s rather speedy 90-minute run, I had absolutely no idea what to expect going in, aside from two facts. The first was the intriguing, yet incredibly dark synopsis, in which two emotionally vacant upper class girls, Amanda (Olivia Cooke, Ready Player One) and Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy, Split) rekindle the flame of their old friendship after a traumatic incident and conspire to murder Lily’s creepy stepfather. The second was that this film is indeed the last movie we’ll see the late Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Green Room) in, and after seeing his performance I was reminded of how great of a young talent we lost with his passing.
From the first minutes of the film, it becomes abundantly clear that the strongest elements are the production design, the costuming, and the hauntingly hilarious dynamic between the two leads. Watching Amanda and Lily share their warped perspectives on the world is a strange delight, and the ever changing outfits and location keeps a relatively small scale film just as interesting as any other. I will say that the scope of the story left me wanting something a little bit more, if only because the trailer seems to promise a larger film. As somebody that enjoys tighter films, like Green Room for instance, I can appreciate when a story is confined to a few sets and solid character acting, although the movie itself sets up something grand but stays surprisingly grounded. With tempered expectations, this movie is still very enjoyable and amazingly paced, and I’ll be interested to see what other viewer’s consensus will be as the movie gets a wide release.
During my time watching the movie, I also couldn’t quite get a feeling for how far the movie would go or where the messaging was going to land. Most films that center around psychologically disturbed affluent young women either go all in on seeming grounded and delivering on shock factor, or they remove the film from reality altogether and deliver a more spectacle driven experience. Thoroughbreds falls in a weird middle ground, where the characters are too real for their decisions to be believable, but too removed from genuine stakes for any real tension to build and care to be given. This really is a movie that’s just about two girls deciding over whether or not to kill a stepfather, and by the time the rather awkward last scene is reached, it’s hard to not feel like there should be something more. Any statements on the value of empathy, the trials of being a young adult, or even just casting a light on how alien America’s New England upper class is to the rest of the nation are missed by a script that too often chooses to insert silence or dialogue when the other would be more appropriate.
That all being said, the film does present us with Anton Yelchin’s last ever acting role (the end credits dedicate the movie to him) and his performance is absolutely stellar, creating a genuinely three-dimensional human that feels so out of place in such a perfectly sterile movie. Thoroughbreds is definitely worth the watch, but American Psycho or Jawbreaker this film is not. Go for the great dynamic between Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke, and stay for the awesome set design and a memorable performance by the late Anton Yelchin. I give Thoroughbreds .5 out of 5 star, and recommend that folks give it a watch in theaters.