The relationship between two suburban Connecticut teenagers, Amanda, portrayed in a multi-layered manner by Olivia Cooke (The Quiet Ones), and Lily, played by BAFTA nominee Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan), is at the center of the film, “Thoroughbreds.” Amanda comes across as an abrasive person, who claims that she is devoid of feelings; an incident shown at the start of the film, seemingly backs up her assertion. She is, however, adept at faking emotions, as are most psychopaths. Conversely, Lily, is a manipulator, who has a history of fabricating the truth, and has been expelled from her previous prep-school for plagiarism. Unlike Amanda, she has had an opulent upbringing.
The two girls first met, and became friends, in elementary school, but since then haven’t been in contact for a number of years. Amanda’s mother, Karen (Kaili Vernoff), pays Lily to be Amanda’s tutor. At first, the girls’ relationship is awkward and tense, but that doesn’t last long. Shortly after they begin spending time together, Amanda poses what Lily considers, as would most people, a very inappropriate question. The question, however, gets Lily thinking, and, in essence, sets the remainder of the film in motion. After giving the question some thought, Lily arrives at the conclusion that she could use Amanda’s help. Lily is not fond of her step-father, Mark, a role acted by Emmy nominee, Paul Sparks (House of Cards). Mark is vain and mean-spirited, and treats Lily’s mother, Cynthia (Francie Swift) as more of a servant than a wife. Lily has come to the conclusion that she wants Amanda to help her kill Mark.
In addition to the aforementioned actors, the cast includes Anton Yelchin (Green Room), in his final film, before his untimely death. Yelchin gives a convincing performance as the character Tim, who works at a retirement home, and is a low-level drug dealer who has delusions of becoming a major player. He allows himself to be blackmailed into the girls’ plan to off Mark. Is Tim the type of person who is capable of murder? If he can’t kill Mark, will the girls attempt to get him into further legal trouble, knowing they could be risking too much exposure to their own impending crime? Can Amanda or Lily murder Mark without Tim’s help? Those questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion.
What I found refreshing about the film, is that it could’ve taken the well-traversed cinematic path of any number of its predecessors that deal with teenagers conspiring to murder an evil adult in their lives, but it doesn’t. I kept asking myself the following question, as I watched the two girls plot the murder: Is Mark really that bad of a person? Would he merely be the murder victim of a spoiled-brat, in Lily, who doesn’t ever like being told that she, like everyone else in the world, had to live by certain rules? Mark hasn’t been sexually molesting Lily, since becoming her step-father. He doesn’t physically abuse either Lily or her mother. Instead, viewers are presented with a portrait of a privileged jerk, who is full of himself because of his wealth. I am not advocating for someone who is emotionally abusive, but there are numerous steps that can be taken to end that sort of abuse short of taking the man’s life. While I enjoyed the movie, and didn’t feel it was a waste of time, I was never sold on the fact that the girls were warranted in what they wanted to do to Mark. I am certainly not going to ruin the film for those of you who want to see it by revealing what does ultimately happen. In addition, I also feel to divulge more specific plot points would also detract from your enjoyment.
The provocative, taut, and unsettling “Thoroughbreds” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2017. The film is the directorial debut of Corey Finley, who also wrote the screenplay; the film was originally written by Finley for the stage. The film which is parts comedy – crime – drama and thriller, has a 92 minute runtime. The non-traditional soundtrack, composed by Erik Friedlander, serves to help move what is transpiring on screen. The friendship, or perhaps a better word, the scheming between the two girls, is what makes the film worthy of watching. I’ve read some reviews which compare the film to the cult classic “Heathers.” I don’t agree with that comparison. Those of you wanting to watch the film because of that comparison, I have a feeling, are going to be disappointed. All in all, while not a perfect film, I felt the cast as a whole did an excellent job, and Finley showed he has promise as an up and coming director.