Tuesday, March 13, 2018

[Review] Thoroughbreds

Directed by newcomer Cory Finley, Thoroughbreds is a deliriously off-kilter psychological drama with a pitch-black sense of humor and a tinge of bizarro horror.

Set in suburban Connecticut, the story revolves around two (very) upper-class teens that are essentially forced to hang out together. One is the uptight and academic Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch and Split), and the other is the anti-social Amanda (Olivia Cooke, Me & Earl & the Dying Girl) who claims to not feel any emotions. It's safe to say that they don't really hit it off. But over time, they eventually form a strange bond -- it's less of a friendship, and more of a complementary way of using each other. Anyway, it's not long before the two are plotting an idea to have Lily's high-strung and emotionally abusive stepfather (coldly played by Paul Sparks) murdered!

Considering the potently inhospitable tone, the dark subject matter, and the bemused sense of humor, it wouldn't be off-base to compare Thoroughbreds to last year's divisive Yorgos Lanthimos film The Killing of a Sacred Deer, except this is much more straightforward and economical. Each scene brims with a thick, awkward tension that you could slice through with a butcher knife, and you get the impression that it's all going to build to something really nasty (and it does). The uneasy musical score squeals, clicks, taps, stomps, and pummels with the rhythm of a frantic horse.

This is a film that is as cunning and unhinged as its characters. Taylor-Joy and Cooke both give perfectly callous and memorably deranged performances, casting a twisted spell on the audience as the film progresses. And in his final on-screen role, the late Anton Yelchin gloriously rolls in as a smarmy scuzzball with a minor yet impactful role, reminding us of the great talent that we've lost.

In the end -- despite the film's sharp and stabby nature -- there isn't really a major point to any of it. It's just a well-crafted exercise in luxurious ugliness and shattered characters getting pushed to the edge. The biggest message all might be: Don't practice row-boating in the house.

( 8/10 )

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