“Thoroughbreds,” a new breed of black cult comedy
Breanna Brink, Staff Writer
The rekindling of friendship can bring about the best or more sinister side in people, as is the case in Cory Finley’s directorial debut “Thoroughbreds.” Released on March 9 and bolstering an R rating, this film has been compared to “American Psycho” and “Heathers,” both as a promotional technique and due to correlating genres. The film has maintained an 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and for a film of its genre, the “B” rating is likely due to interpretive distress over the film’s thematic choices, rather than the actual cast or filming. There is a sort of intriguing darkness about the films ideas, the balance of whose life is worth living, and the concept of determining your own fate. As one of our main characters Amanda tells her friend Lily, “you cannot hesitate. The only thing worse than being incompetent, or being unkind, or being evil, is being indecisive.” This film is decidedly a new cult classic, and will likely be analyzed for its technique and writing further down the road.
The movie revolves around childhood friends Lily, “the one who feels everything” (portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda “the one who feels nothing” (portrayed by Olivia Cook), as they reconnect in suburban Connecticut after years of growing apart. Lily has grown into a polished, upper-class teenager with a fancy boarding school on her transcript and a coveted internship on her resume, while Amanda has developed a sharp wit and her own particular attitude, but all in the process of becoming a social outcast due to a violent incident involving her horse. Though they initially seem completely at odds, the pair eventually bond over a warped distaste for Lily’s step father, portrayed by Paul Sparks, and hatch a plan to solve both of their problems. Clearly, the only answer is murder.
Despite seemingly having a straightforward plot, the movie subverts all its genres’ clichés. Managing to form a seemingly realistic but strained relationship between the two leads, both characters come to dark conclusions about themselves that leads to a climax in the film that most viewers might not anticipate. Posing as a dark comedy, the film asks the question we all do, “why?” and yet just like real life, never really answers it for us.
Sonia Rao with the Washington Post critiqued the film, saying “what makes ‘Thoroughbreds’ compelling is its complete lack of answers. We live in an era saturated with almost anthropological films, series and news stories that attempt to explain why adolescents behave the way they do — admittedly a valid concern after traumatic events. But it’s refreshing to see a project that gives us a break from all the soul-searching and acknowledges that teens can be frustratingly inscrutable.”
With a beautifully allegorical set, the film takes place revolving around very few locations, and primarily resides within Lily’s home. This kind of movie tends to follow a specific script and relies on some tropes, such as making the two mains romantic, to strengthen their relationship. This does not happen in “Thoroughbreds,” and is not necessary. The two girls share history, but they also share morbid curiosity about one another, which proves more binding than love. The movie is alienating in its portrayal of upper class teenagers, and it does this on purpose; we, just like the characters, are watching with the same intent, expecting them to receive the punishment or reward that they deserve. The Outline writer Judy Berman said “’Thoroughbreds’ resists a morally tidy resolution, sending viewers home to queasily contemplate what Finley, a former playwright, is saying about us. He’s got more universal themes on his mind, telling Filmmaker magazine, that the film is his attempt “to say something about the morally insulating effects of privilege, and about how manipulation is woven into the day-to-day reality of capitalistic society.”
The film was concluded in memory of Anton Yelchin, who plays Tim in the film. This was his last movie before a traumatic car accident claimed his life, and is quite a send off, giving his character an optimistic “moving up in the world” ending, one that he seems to have earned.
While the film ends on a note different than one might expect, the movie is going to leave an impression, and that’s the goal. Because, despite fostering an idea that you take care of what is yours, and you never be indecisive, this movie wants you to think, and it wants you to pick a side.