Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Thoroughbreds Review

Image result for thoroughbreds film

"What else did it say?"

"I don't know. I just threw it away."

Remarkably cinematic considering the script was originally developed as a stage play, Thoroughbreds is the work of a filmmaker in their prime and yet this is the debut feature from 29 year old playwright/director Cory Finley. In fact, Finley had never worked on a film of any kind in any facet prior to writing and directing what is thus far the best film I have seen from 2018.

The film focuses on two upper-class teenagers who were once close friends but have since drifted apart, though Finley doesn't waste any time attempting to paint every inch of his canvas with exposition (and thank goodness for that). We learn of their previous bond through subtle dialogue that hints rather than via elaborate explanations, and at a brisk 92 minute run time Thoroughbreds demonstrates that this young, shockingly inexperienced filmmaker has a natural knack for pacing. Playing the lead roles are Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy and to say they were the perfect choices isn't being hyperbolic in even the slightest sense. It all starts with the script, but these two brilliant young actresses were crucial in bringing Finley's words to life.

Cooke plays Amanda, a teenage sociopath who commits a horrific act of violence on a horse during the opening moments of the film (it occurs off screen, for those who may be turned off by seeing such things) and thus is relegated to spending much of her time seeing shrinks and kept far away from the stables. Taylor-Joy plays Lily, seemingly happier and more stable than Amanda but there is a darkness residing underneath her clean, aesthetically pleasing exterior presentation. They are reunited years after their friendship fell apart because Amanda's mother thinks her daughter needs to socialize more, and a generous financial offer is extended to Lily in exchange for some one on one SAT tutoring. It's during this time that Amanda learns of Lily's awful stepfather Mark (Paul Sparks), which leads to Amanda asking a sinister question with zero emotion or concern:

"Do you ever think about just killing him?"

Thoroughbreds is a film about privilege and affluence and how those things ultimately are only able to mask who you truly are underneath. It's also about how fucking terrifying it is to witness the moment someone becomes self-aware of their status and how it can be utilized to quite literally get away with murder. It's also a film that is darkly comedic and in an odd way a lot of fun thanks to every terrific performance, including one I haven't mentioned yet from the late great Anton Yelchin, who tragically died in a freak accident in June of 2016 at the age of 27. He had finished filming all of his scenes prior to his death and his turn in Thoroughbreds serves as a bittersweet reminder of what an extraordinary talent he was.

Featuring the note-perfect screenplay from Finley who also directs the hell out of the film, along with some really inspired camerawork from cinematographer Lyle Vincent and an essential musical score from Erik Friedlander, Thoroughbreds is one of those pieces of cinema that comes along and reminds me of exactly what it is that lead to me falling in love with the medium. I look forward to revisiting this one, I've got a feeling my admiration will continue to flourish down the road, and I can't wait to see what else Cory Finley is capable of.