Thoroughbreds: A Diabolically Chic Thriller That Runs Out Of Gas
Review by Aaron Haughton
Thoroughbreds is the first feature from writer/director Cory Finley and stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke, and the late Anton Yelchin in his final posthumous performance. The film is a pitch black satire wrapped in a thriller that plays like a quirky cross pollination of The Shining, Heavenly Creatures, Heathers and Strangers on a Train. Taking place in the upper echelon of society and wealth, the film is interestingly devoid of all empathy, ultimately asking if empathy is even necessary when you have privilege to fall back on.
The film opens very strong right out the gate, but it doesn't possess the stamina to burst across the finish like I was hoping it would. Essentially, Thoroughbreds lacks the complexity of the films mentioned above and fizzles out in a lackluster finale. The tension and mood that Finley cultivates and builds up to, however, is palpitating and fully engaging to a point.
The first half of the film is highly enjoyable and well crafted. The film relies heavily on the soundscape, whether it be the whirring sound design of an exercise machine or the atonal instrumentations of Erik Friedlander's score, and looming direction to create a mood of unsettling tension that courses beautifully throughout the film. The mood Finley establishes is mostly effective, but it's owed entirely to Kubrick's The Shining. The direction and camerawork are calculated and meticulous, but the film lacks the purity inherent in its title; it feels more of an impersonation of other films and filmmakers and less of Finley doing his own thing.
The film is reliant upon the actors to sell the twisted and depraved world of the film, and the performances are fantastic across the board. The chemistry and relationship between the two leads is very interesting — Taylor-Joy is guarded and fake and Cooke lacks the ability to feel any emotions — and the interplay between them is fascinating to watch unfold. Both Taylor-Joy and Cooke can be commended for giving performances that engage, despite their characters being quite the opposite. Also, seeing Anton Yelchin on screen always brings joy to my heart, and while his role in this film is relatively small, he still gives a commanding and memorable performance.
The rhythm and beats of the dialogue are lightning fast and razor-sharp, and definitely one of the film's stronger characteristics — the film was initially a play (Finley has a background in play writing), and I think it may be better suited for that particular medium since a lot of the emphasis is placed on the actors and performances anyway. The story does unravel in a somewhat unpredictable fashion, with many winds and twists (particularly with regard to the relationship between our central characters), but the main determining factor for how well the film will work for you rests entirely on its ending. Regardless of how the ending leaves you feeling, the film is a diabolically fun ride with loads of offbeat wry humor and solid performances.
Rating: 3 awkward family dinners outta 5.
What do you think? Did the ending work for you? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!