A film about extremely wealthy Connecticut teens with bad impulses, this comedy has a steely sheen.
Amanda (Olivia Cooke), a teenager who says she can’t feel anything, killed her family’s pet horse in the middle of the night. Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) just got kicked out of her elite boarding school for plagiarism. During listless scenes of SAT prep, the two frenemies hatch a scheme to murder Lily’s stepdad, an arrogant juicer who can’t stand the sight of either of them. Thoroughbreds plunges you into an ice-cold bath of amorality, but debuting writer-director Cory Finley has such a command of details—the perfectly soigné clothes and hairdos, the lavish Connecticut living rooms and attentive gardening staffs—that you’ll laugh your way through the shivers.
It’s a movie that vibrates with unease, balancing the coolness of its two leads (both superb) against a jittery percussion score by Erik Friedlander and lengthy tracking shots that wouldn’t feel out of place in The Shining’s Overlook Hotel. (You can call Thoroughbreds a horror film, but it’s the horror of having too much money and a poorly developed sense of ethics.) Meanness has long held a cherished place in teen comedies but rarely as the motivating force of our ostensible heroes. Something about Thoroughbreds feels especially right now; if you’ve been returning to American Psycho lately, here’s an update.
For all his confidence, Finley has room to grow. He loves his impeccably tailored beasts too much to write them a proper ending. When this one sneaks up on you, it’s forced. But the film clears a more impressive hurdle: It never apologizes, never succumbs to correcting the uncorrectable. Thoroughbreds features the late Anton Yelchin’s final performance as a drug dealer out of his depth. Amazingly, he’s the soul of the movie because everyone around him is so soulless, their damages are better hidden.
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