- Critic's Rating - 7/107/10
Thoroughbreds Is A low budget but stylish 2017 US film (2018 release)
I must say, I ‘liked’ this film Thoroughbreds, but many will not like the main characters. I ‘get’ them, as, i lived in East Coast USA for 4 years, plus… I read the book ‘The Secret History’, by Donna Tartt some years ago; I’m also a fan of Whit Stillman’s films (all of them), so I’m a natural to ‘like’, well, appreciate, this style of laconic film. So much of Cory Finley’s film-making debut here, is so delicious it feels churlish to yearn for a little more. Effortlessly adopting the bored drawl of East Coast wine-bar habitues, Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke, actresses both raised in England, shrew their way through dialogue that comes at the film “Heathers”, somewhat. The power dynamic between both girls shifts throughout the story.
We begin with an eerie scene in which wry Amanda (Cooke) – who claims to be clinically incapable of feeling emotion – arrives for a tutoring session with cool, aloof Lily (Taylor-Joy). We are made aware of Lily’s emotionally abusive, big game-hunting stepfather (Paul Sparks). The aridity of her background emphasises the paradoxical claustrophobia of large, well-appointed spaces. Before terribly long, jokes about killing the stepdad contort into something like a genuine scheme. It’s sharp. It’s clever. It features a delightful final performance from Anton Yelchin as a deluded loser too dumb to understand how the girls plan to manipulate him.For all that, there is something missing from the heart of Thoroughbreds. The picture plays like lengthy foreplay for a final release that – though brilliantly staged in a hugely original single take – flits by too quickly to properly satisfy.
None of which should distract from the bravura nature of the staging. Lyle Vincent’s camera, blasted by expensive sunlight, revels in steady, ironic shots that (no damning with faint praise intended) positively yearn to become popular gifs. Look up “hauteur” in a few months and you may well see Taylor-Joy perched coolly on a garden bench as she dares the camera to blink first. An angular score from Erik Friedlander never plays discordant notes throughout the film – The violin-screeches meld with the cynical dialogue and hard images to bring us somewhere unexpectedly close to the ethereal.
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Thoroughbreds is, I noted, dedicated to it’s actor Anton Yelchin, the errant drug-dealer in the film; he died not long after filming, when his Jeep Cherokee rolled backwards into him, pinning him to a wall. Rest in Peace, Anton Yelchin.