Directed by Cory Finley
by Benjamin Leonard, Best Boy
Thoroughbreds is the debut feature from writer/director Cory Finley. It tells the story of two upper-class teens dabbling in the criminal world of drugs and contract killings. Olivia Cooke plays Amanda, a bit of a sociopath whose mother pays her former friend Lily to be her friend again. Anya Taylor-Joy plays Lily, seemingly a little-miss-perfect. Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy each have had some recent indie success as the titular young ladies in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and The VVitch, respectively.
Each young lady has her own social and mental issues and they begin to be friends again in earnest, filling each other's needs. As is bound to happen, the spoiled and entitled Lily starts to feel the world owes her more and they plan to have her stepfather murdered (mostly so she doesn’t have to listen to him on his rowing machine anymore). Enter Tim, the burnt-out, drug-dealing statutory rapist. Tim is played by Anton Yelchin in what appears to be his final film to be released after his untimely death last summer.
I’ve seen some write-ups of Thoroughbreds refer to it as Heathers if it were directed by Hitchcock. This is a terrible description on many fronts. Mainly, it’s inaccurate. But it also sets up impossible to reach expectations. Yes, like Heathers it does involve some murderous and comically sociopathic teen girls and the setting is somewhat Hitchcockian in that they are exceptionally rich and entitled. But that’s about where the similarities end. This is its own movie and I think it would stand much better on its own rather than trying to be shoe-horned into the same category as these greats.
Visually, the film is sprinkled with some nice shots and there are some interesting camera angles here and there, but the overuse of rack focus becomes obnoxious quickly. There are probably about ten instances throughout and only two of them actually make for good shots. I enjoyed the sound design, never knowing when you’d hear the stepfather’s exercise from upstairs...ready to drive you insane.
The story is entertaining if not a bit familiar, but the best part of Thoroughbreds is the acting. Olivia, Anya, and Anton all turn in above average performances. Between them and Corey Finley, I feel that Hollywood may be in the right hands going forward and we may actually get some good films over the next few years. Overall Thoroughbreds is a solid first effort and worth a watch. Just don’t buy into the hyperbolic descriptions. You can check it out at The Philadelphia Film Festival at 4:40 PM Sunday October 29th at Ritz East.