A dark comedy about two upscale teenage girls who plot to kill one of their parents. You know what, that sounds like a bully time.
Actually, before I get to the nitty-gritty of my initial impressions of this flick, I think it’s only fitting to mention a little something about the movie. As many of you are aware, talented, up and coming actor Anton Yelchin tragically and unfairly passed away in 2016. Personally, while I won’t say I’ve seen all of his movies, I safely consider myself a relative fan of the man, even if the movies he’s been apart of weren’t well received by either audiences or critics. Having said that, I can tell he was a beloved person to be around if the kind words of his colleagues are any indication. He will be sorely missed, rest in peace, good sir. I’m drumming this up because this film was his final completed film before his passing, making this arguably the movie that I am looking forward to the most.
The story looks like… well, basically what I said in my very first lines. That it’s about a pair of disturbed upscale teen girls who plot the deaths of one of their parents. Simple enough.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Anya Taylor-Joy (SPLIT , MORGAN , THE WITCH , and upcoming films GLASS  and THE NEW MUTANTS ) and Olivia Cooke (ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL , OUIJA , TV show BATES MOTEL [2013 – 2017], and upcoming films READY PLAYER ONE  and LIFE ITSELF ). In support, we have Anton Yelchin (PORTO , STAR TREK BEYOND , and TERMINATOR SALVATION ) and Paul Sparks (THE GREATEST SHOWMAN , MIDNIGHT SPECIAL , and TV show BOARDWALK EMPIRE [2010 – 2014]).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have Cory Finley, making his feature-film debut. Congrats, sir. Composing the score, we have Erik Friedlander, known for OH LUCY! (2018). The cinematographer is Lyle Vincent, known for THE BAD BATCH (2017) and the upcoming DREAMLAND (2018). Finally, the editor is Louise Ford, known for DON’T BREATHE (2016), THE WITCH, and upcoming films WILDLIFE (2018) and SIBERIA (2018).
Overall, something’s telling me that I’m going to really like this movie. Lots of deadpan humor, among other aspects that will keep me thoroughly entertained. I’m a fan of both Yelchin and Taylor-Joy, Cooke is a solid talent as well, and it looks like everyone is at least passably familiar with darker styled stories, so I think this is going to be pretty fun.
This is my honest opinion of: THOROUGHBREDS
Set in Connecticut. Amanda (Olivia Cooke) and Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) are a pair of upscale teenagers who used to be friends, fell out of touch for awhile, and have now reunited for the purpose of Lily tutoring Amanda. Things are… not smooth sailings though, as Amanda proves to be fairly off-putting due to her lack of emotions leading to brunt statements that don’t always make Lily feel comfortable. This certainly carries over to Mark (Paul Sparks), Lily’s possessive and controlling step-father. However, Amanda’s forthcoming comments yield an interesting development: Lily hates Mark and the two eventually hatch a plan to kill him.
Yup, it’s just as good as I was hoping it’d be. I thoroughly enjoyed this flick.
So first and foremost, yes, this movie is pretty funny. I wouldn’t expect laughs that will have you rolling around on the floor, but it’s a dark comedy, they’re not really meant to do that. Having said that, there are some notable jokes that cracked me up. Like when Amanda makes an abrupt attempt to hug Lily, only for Lily to jump in fright, making the claim that it looked like an attack. That still has me going, to be honest. Some visuals are weirdly humorous too, like when Lily is plotting her step-dad’s death, she’ll be sitting and slowly eating one to three peas at a time with her fork. I don’t know, there’s something about the hoity toity imagery that makes me giggle.
But what’s humor without funny people to execute the jokes? Our star attractions, Cooke and Taylor-Joy, are absolutely wonderful. Lily is a wholesome young woman, just trying to be a great student and maintain the bright future ahead of her, which would be a smoother ride if she wasn’t so frustrated with her situation at home. She’s constantly struggling with her hatred for Mark and his treatment of her mother, which slowly chips away at her prim and proper exterior. And Amanda, by God, I love this girl. She’s so weird and more than a little creepy. Despite a perfectly healthy brain, and the numerous diagnoses of her therapists and other doctors, she does seem to be perfectly cognizant of her actions and what is socially perceived as right and wrong and does what she can to not do the wrong things, despite her past violent actions. She doesn’t seem to be a particularly bad kid, and even shows frustration when Lily tries to revisit the conversation about killing Mark. At the same time, when the decision is made, she’s calculating, ruthless, and pretty scary.
But our leading ladies aren’t the only ones that get some real proverbial meat to chew on. Even the late and great Yelchin as Tim does extremely well. Tim’s this self-absorbed drug dealer who sells drugs to minors and went to jail for awhile for statutory rape. The moment we meet him, he’s definitely creepy, especially when he tries to talk to Lily at the party she’s at. Despite everything, as the story unfolds and his involvement in killing Mark grows, you almost feel sorry for him as the girls become more and more manipulative, leading to blackmail and any legal retaliation will only spell disaster for him as he has a criminal record and these teenage girls, with no criminal records (assuming that he doesn’t know about Amanda’s past), come from wealthy families that can afford great lawyers. The more caught in their web he gets, the more panicked and scared he becomes. For a final performance, this was awesome and yet makes me weep that such great talent was taken from us too soon and would have been amazing to see him further along in his career.
And despite their limited screen time, each of the adults leave their own marks as well. Francie Swift as Lily’s mother is surprisingly nuanced as a woman who is wholly submissive for Mark, constantly doing what he wants and even changing her bodily image to appease him. Even when she and Lily are talking about sending her away to a different college, you can see in her eyes that she wouldn’t normally agree to the decision and would likely rather accept her daughter’s decision to go where she wants. But because her marriage to Mark is completely one-sided, and he doesn’t like Lily any more than she likes him, she likely attempted to put up some kind of fight before resulting in him putting his foot down and she act like a whipped dog. There’s also a scene involving Amanda’s mother (Kaili Vernoff) that has a surprisingly funny edge to it. Lily pays Amanda a visit at her home and when her mother answers the door, the woman flies through a myriad of emotional responses in only a couple of short seconds. At first, she’s surprised, then happy, then in the blink of an eye, she’s scared, and immediately asks, “Did she do anything?” To which Lily responds with just wanting to see her. It just goes to show that even her mother is leery of everything her daughter does, providing a thin, but interesting layer to just who reacts to Amanda in what way.
But if there’s anything that this movie excels at is the writing. It feels like something that could have been straight out of a novel, even though I’m ninety-percent sure that this is an original idea out of Finley. For a debut project, this is incredibly impressive. There’s an elegance the script that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but makes damned sure that you buy into every scene playing out. The way that the characters move, the way that they interact with each other, it’s all feels so well woven together that it doesn’t matter if the characters are just sitting around watching a movie, or actively plotting Mark’s death, there’s always something interesting happening that further develops the characters and their motivations, which also speaks highly of the directing.
Overall, I can’t recommend this movie enough. It’s funny, deliciously disturbing, and so incredibly enjoyable in every way. So if you like your dark comedies, give this one a try. Personally, I love it and I wouldn’t mind owning this on Blu-ray when the time comes. Good breeding, a great movie.
My honest rating for THOROUGHBREDS: 5/5