Review: Thoroughbred

Thoroughbred is written and directed by newcomer Cory Finley, who adapted the screenplay from a play that he wrote with the same story. The story and tone feel very much like a stage play as it’s contained and entirely character and performance driven, and all of it works thanks to Finley, as well as actresses Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke. A producer of the film mentioned in the Q&A afterward how Finley’s play was floating around Hollywood before being picked up, and Finley given the chance to (or told that he would) direct the film, which was a daunting but welcome task, he explained. While watching the film, it’s easy to see the passion for the project and understanding of the story and characters because Finley expertly handles the film. The story is about an emotionless girl who befriends a spoiled peer and helps plot the murder of somebody that neither of them are fond of, which is one that could easily be a film like “No Good Deed” or “The Perfect Guy” or something like that, but this film rises leagues above those.

As previously stated, this story feels very much like a play because of how reliant it is on its characters and performances, which drive the film through every scene. The basic premise is that we have two high-school girls who have not been friends for years as they have grown apart. When they reconnect, they realize that they may have more in common than they thought, and their teamwork may be needed to rid the world of a certain person that they might not have the best relationship with. Taylor-Joy plays the extremely preppy, quasi-snobby, and seemingly pretentious Lily; one could say that just judging her by her cover, she is probably heartless and cold. Cooke plays Amanda, the shy and lonely outcast who Lily tutors as per Amanda’s mother’s request; Amanda has no emotions, so she quite figuratively is heartless and cold. Seeing how these two characters interact and grow off of each other is extremely fascinating and entertaining, not only because they seem to be polar opposites, but finding out how similar they are (and how they find out how similar they are) was a lot of fun to see. The entire film plays out sort of like a dramatic character study on what happens during isolation; Lily feels isolated and alone because of her upper-class lifestyle and family, and Amanda is isolated and alone because of her general attitude and personality.

The characters are strange, indeed, and if they were not performed well, then the entire movie would fail. Taylor-Joy brings just enough of the sarcastic and conceited attitude whilst maintaining characteristics that warrant support from the audience. We see past her façade to the great heart she has underneath, which is a paramount element that Taylor-Joy had to bring, and brought with great fervency. The same can also be said about Cooke’s performance; the character is written as stoic as possible but the performance has such a magnitude about it that Amanda is just as mesmerizing and lovable as Lily, even though on paper, I’m sure they must have been rather dislikable. Anton Yelchin stars as the first non-protagonist role that I’ve seen him in, and he plays a dead-end drug dealer, who is trying very hard to start an empire but can’t really seem to get his feet off the ground. It was a great performance and an interesting character to see him in as it was just so unusual for the “type” of role I typically see him in. He, along with other factors, bring a lot of comedy to the film and really make it quite a pleasure to watch.

Of course, there are quite a few tense, dramatic and emotional moments in the film as well but there was also a surprising amount of successful humor that helped keep the film a bit lighter. The step-father is the antagonist of the film whom I’ve been alluding to, Lily’s step-father to be exact. Paul Sparks plays him beautifully and brings such a despicable and nasty vibe to the character which worked on all levels. It feels nice as an audience member when the protagonists also want the antagonist dead! As you can probably guess, this film most definitely was original and fresh in every way and kept me on my toes throughout; unpredictability is where this movie shines brightest, and all of that works because the characters are so unique and different that there’s no way to guess what they’re going to do next. Of course, because of this off-the-wall nature, I thought the ending was a little much (even though it worked), it felt like it was a part of a different movie. That being said, it definitely made sense for the story and for the characters, but it did throw me off a little bit.

Overall, Thoroughbred was a really good film with so much to be enjoyed! Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke brilliantly bring their strange characters to life and make them relatable and lovable, even though they’re both anything but. The plot was extremely refreshing and fascinating, and originality just seeps off the screen. Writer/Director Cory Finley adapted this film from a script for a play that he wrote, and the contained plot and character-driven story very much feels as if I was watching a play at times. The film is dramatic, tense, humorous, emotional and entertaining from beginning to end. There were a few pacing issues, and some of the scenes could have been chopped or rewritten into other scenes, but all-in-all, this film was a really good time and I’m looking forward to seeing it again soon! I’m going to give Thoroughbred a 7/10, and a green recommendation! I’m not sure when the film will come out, but when it does, definitely make a point to see it. If you have seen it, what did you think about it? As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!

 

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