Genre: Drama, Thriller
Director/Writer: Cory Finley
Music: Erik Friedlander
Cinematography: Lyle Vincent
Premiered at Sundance in 2017, but only released stateside one years later, American director Cory Finley’s feature debut THOROUGHBREDS is a trend-bucking female-bonding thriller which passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.
Two high-school girls Lily (Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Cooke), once best-friends, touch bases under a new circumstance (pretense and lies, a pall of antisocial stultification) and their rekindled friendship is tested by a cold-blooded plan of murdering Lily’s minted stepfather Mark (Sparks), whom she despises but, much to a viewer’s consternation, the occasion behind her motive is less lurid and more self-serving than we anticipate (an abused victim, one might easily guesstimate, reckoning its typical rich stepfather and teenage step daughter setting).
Amanda, is the head case prima facie, a self-claimed emotionless being (the Shelton Cooper ilk sans any academic ardor), whose grisly contravention is only revealed later and hinted in the beginning. So by comparison, Lily is the far more “normal” one, lives in Mark’s enormous manor, she is the princess but with a very dark streak. Finley builds the tension patiently with his reductive modus operandi, in fact, it is conceived as a stage play, which is consummated with coup-de-théâtre, a static long-take leaving the bloodshed to our imagination only, then segues into the incriminating aftermath, to a stirring effect.
The two young leads, both cutting their teeth in the horror genre, Cooke (THE QUIET ONE, OUIJA 2014) and Taylor-Joy (THE WITCH 2015 and SPLIT 2016), bootstrap each other’s mentality with acumen, aplomb and unalloyed thespian machination; as for the late Anton Yelchin (1989-2016), in his final film, it is plaintive to watch his abject, slovenly small-time ne’er-do-well Tim, trying futilely to boast about his brighter future whereas his glint of vulnerability is too close to home in the context.
As a singular career calling card, THOROUGHBREDS ultimately suffers, like many of its ilks, from its ill-devised, blasé dialogue, often takes us right out of the ambiguous atmospherics with a tang of distaste simultaneously, for all its affectation, Erik Friedlander’s strangely unearthly accompaniment strikes a chord with Finley and his two leads’ effect to bring an uncharacteristic fable about sororal toxicity and sociopathic deception to the fore, and admirably, without femininity being subjected to any kind of sexualization, that is promising.