A taut and fascinating debut from Cory Finley.
Often times there are people who come from the stage and are able to so effortlessly make the transition to film that it makes my head spin. Some of the best names in film currently came from theater backgrounds (Sorkin or even McDounagh). Cory Finley might be a name that will soon be added to that club if his debut feature is any indication of the type of stories he can commit to celluloid in the future.
"Thoroughbreds" is the story of two friends who live in high society. Each has personal problems that they have to deal with. For Amanda (Olivia Cooke) it's the fact that she feels nothing at all. Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy), on the other hand, feels everything and reacts to it pretty intensely. Whether it's every annoying thing her stepdad does or just anything that bothers her. As the two play off each other and Lily realizes she can say pretty much anything to Amanda without being criticized or attacked she takes advantage of it. As the story progresses you begin to see that each girl isn't exactly as she appears. Things begin to get dark as we are shown just how far Amanda is willing to go to remove her POS stepdad from her life.
It's a fascinating look at human emotions and how people operate in their world and with each other. Seeing to people on completely opposite ends of the emotional spectrum find where their differences and (more importantly) their similarities are leads to eerie and interesting revelations within the film. To see Lily, who is presented to us as prim and proper, express incredibly dark fantasies is shocking. What's equally shocking is seeing the restraint and earnestness that Amanda expresses in life when she comes off as completely uncaring and cold.
What truly astounds me about this film is how Finley has a grasp on the medium after such a short time. While most of the film takes place in Lily's castle-like house, his camera dances and levitates through the halls in impressive and immersive one takes that give the space depth and meaning. Not only that but the incredibly specific and sharp focus he brings to his characters helps us understand and realize them more fully even when the script doesn't.
Something that also bolsters the film is the incredible performances from the three leads. Olivia Cooke as Amanda is so impassive and emotionless that you absolutely believe she feels nothing at all. Her blank, cold stare tells us more about her character than words ever could. Anya Taylor-Joy is equally impressive as her character first comes off as bubbly but ultimately is revealed to be something much darker than that. She plays this role pitch perfectly and never loses sight of how this character process emotions and sees the world. This is another performance that solidifies her as one of the greatest young talents around. But the real winner here is Anton Yelchin who plays a small-time drug dealer named Tim. The biggest flaw of the film is that we don't get enough of Tim and that he isn't given enough to do. Yelchin imbues his with so much humanity and pathos in such a small amount of screen time that it will remind of just how devastating losing him over a year ago was. He takes a character that would have been a distraction in anyone else's hands and turns him into a complex and watchable character. I felt for him whenever he was on-screen and wanted him to fulfill the tall tales of success that he rambles on about during the film. The film would have been better served with much more of Tim as he is, in many ways, the most interesting of all the characters.
The other thing is that the film is separated into 4 chapters for some reason. It doesn't really work in the way that it should because there isn't some serious ramping up between chapters until about the third chapter. Not only that but the film ends really abruptly and not in a good way. It feels as if there is far more story and interesting character stuff here that should be in the film. I really wish that some of the fat from the first two chapters was trimmed in order to make room for more story towards the end of the film. It would have made for an overall more satisfying and enjoyable film.
Ultimately this is an incredibly good and interesting debut film that had me locked in until the very end. It will fascinate you with its story and captivate you with its characters. If you are looking for an intriguing and often times darkly comedic tale of deceit, bloodshed, and human empathy, look no further than "Throuoghbreds." [A-]
Al Pacino Rating: