Thoroughbreds (2017)

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Directed by: Cory Finley

Starring: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy and Anton Yelchin

Finally got a chance to see Thoroughbreds last week. Overall Thoroughbreds was very solid. A teenage sociopath (Olivia Cooke) and her estranged childhood friend (Anya Taylor-Joy) make a plot to murder the latter’s step father.

This black comedy is being billed as a new generations American Psycho and while there are obvious similarities that I won’t go into, Thoroughbreds has a more fresh feeling and I can’t help, but appreciate it more. Not to take anything away from American Psycho, but Thoroughbreds is able to achieve a lot of the same intensity and uncomfortable humor (I think Thoroughbreds nails the “comedy” aspect of “black comedy”) without gratuitous sex and excessive gore and that’s pretty damn impressive if you ask me.

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I’ve had my eye on Anya Taylor-Joy from the moment she popped up in the 2015 horror film The Witch. She has an intriguing presence about her, almost ethereal, and she really shines in these high intensity films. So when I saw her name on the bill it was an obvious must-see for me. She is awesome in this movie. Her character, Lily, is an up tight rich girl who has more than a few demons in her head and Taylor-Joy has this gravitas about her when playing these characters that is just irresistible. As much as I loved Anya Taylor-Joy in this I loved Olivia Cooke so much more. Sometimes these sociopath characters like Patrick Bateman (sorry to keep coming back to American Psycho I’ll stop now.) or John Doe from Se7en can be a bit overplayed and end up feeling written in just to make the viewer go “oh wow he’s so crazy”, but this is so not the case with Olivia Cooke’s character, Amanda. She is a force on screen from the opening scene of her walking around Lily’s home. The first time we see her “smile” is so obviously fake and rehearsed and when she puts her apathetic face back on it’s so creepy and effective. Olivia is a major source of comedy in this film as well as she so blatantly doesn’t mind that her supposed friend is insulting her right to her face in the first “chapter” of the film. The key to these black comedies is to make you laugh not at the jokes, but the insane grotesque nature of what’s happening and how the characters react… I think. At least that’s what I’m laughing at. Like when Anya Taylor-Joy is crying her eyes out in one scene and the brilliant Olivia Cooke says something along the lines of “Hey there ya go, you’ve been practicing.” (referring to a fake crying technique she taught her earlier in the film), it’s hilarious. And finally we get to the late Anton Yelchin. I obviously have to write about his death which is such a bummer. This guy was going places as a character actor. He had this cool vibe about him and was so much fun to watch. After watching him in this it made me realize how much we were missing out on in the future. He was just starting to pick up steam with his career with roles in the Star Trek films and Green Room. Thoroughbreds was one of his final films and I’m glad to say he was fucking great. He plays Tim, an aspiring drug lord with ambitions that are simply too big for him. He is a pathetic mess the whole film and it is such a blast to watch. He clearly is intimidated by these two girls in every scene they share and Yelchin had so much energy in every scene he was in. Man I’m bummed we won’t be seeing more of him. RIP buddy.

The tone of Thoroughbreds was really great. It was unnerving and gripping from the opening scene until the end credits roll. The one thing that I was really digging was the score. It was dissonant and chaotic and the music didn’t really make sense with random timpani hits that were way out of tune and really strange shrieks of some stringed instrument. I also really enjoyed the camera work. The camera kind of swoops in and out of the scene and in between the characters in a very claustrophobic and invasive kind of way.

If I had one complaint about the movie it would be that I could’ve gone without the final scene. The previous scene had such a good shot to end on and I’m a huge fan of ambiguity so that would’ve been great for me, but I do think some people will appreciate the closure of the final scene.

As I’m writing about it I’m realizing I really enjoyed Thoroughbreds more than I thought. A solid entry into the black comedy genre, a great send off for Anton Yelchin and an even better introduction to Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy for those who haven’t seen them before. I might just go see it again.

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