Cory Finley’s directorial debut, Thoroughbreds, is a wickedly dark and humorous drama-thriller that I’ll be sure to watch again and again. Snappy writing, fabulous settings, and two pitch perfect leads take Finley’s already great direction to a level that cements Thoroughbreds as one of the best pieces in the genre since American Psycho.
Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) are teenage friends who live in an upper-class neighborhood, but both have serious baggage. Lily hates her new, cold, stepfather Mark (Paul Sparks), and learns that he is sending her to a boarding school for kids with behavioral issues. Amanda, who’s recently accepted that she feels nothing emotion-wise, suggests that she and Lily find a way to kill Mark. Working towards their goal eventually leads them to Tim (Anton Yelchin), a lowly drug dealer with delusions of grandeur, and a finale that left me completely stunned.
Out of the main cast, Olivia Cooke is far and away the greatest. Cooke dominates every scene she’s in, which is the majority of the film, with an emotionless expression and careless demeanor that goes back and forth between depressing and comical to watch. Seeing the effect of Amanda’s matter of fact attitude on the people around her (especially those in the one percent world, with its strong focus on etiquette and social tact) is constantly entertaining.
Anya Taylor-Joy may not have been quite as spectacular as Cooke, but she was still bringing the best out of the writing and story as she usually does. Lily has the most growth and change as a character in Thoroughbreds, and Taylor-Joy selling it as well as she did is yet another reminder for me to see anything she’s in.
Paul Sparks and Anton Yelchin are also great in their roles as well, but they didn’t have the screen time to really stick with me as much as Cooke and Taylor-Joy. This doesn’t hurt Thoroughbreds as a whole though, since the film’s focus stays on its incredible leads almost the entire time. However, Yelchin does have one particular moment where he’s in awe of his surroundings that is downright hilarious.
Yelchin’s Tim wasn’t the only one enraptured by the set pieces though. The backdrop for most of Thoroughbred’s scenes were fantastic. Slow moving camera pans allow us to see the total extravagance Lily and Amanda live in. The huge offices, open backyards, and giant stone chess pieces kept me enthralled in the same way as Finley’s writing.
Overall, Thoroughbreds is an expertly crafted thriller with a strong dose of dark humor that I highly recommend. Two amazing leads, visually arresting backgrounds, and sharp writing all make it a strong contender for best in show (heh) in the drama-thriller genre.