Monday, April 09, 2018

Thoroughbreds (2017)

A film festival favorite last year, Thoroughbreds is a first feature for director and writer Cory Finley. It's a pretty good thriller, a kind of cunning mashup of Mean Girls and the Tuesday Weld movie Pretty Poison, though often just a little too busy being cold, with a slow-developing tempo and confounding mannequin performances. Olivia Cooke as Amanda and Anya Taylor-Joy as Lily are often making do with just youth and portentous lines from the script—Finley's inexperience shows in his ability to do some things much better than others. What he does best is set a doomy romantic desperate suicidal mood. Amanda and Lily are natives of Westchester, Connecticut, daughters of money. One is clinical and claims she has no feelings. The other harbors homicidal rage (somewhat justified). They were friends in grade school, now they are high school age and encountering problems in life. One just got kicked out of Andover. The other slaughtered her horse. The mother of one enlists the other by way of money to reconnect, under the pretense of tutoring. Both of their mothers are sad and fearful women. Amanda and Lily get together, open their books, trade barbs, say portentous things, brush one another off, and then see each other again. Gradually a murder plot develops. Anton Yelchin makes an appearance, his last, and does a lot to propel things along. He plays a low-level drug dealer who is pathetically delusional and soon he is entrapped in the murder scheme. It's good to see him any time we can because he was always so good. But the main weight of this show is carried by Cooke and Taylor-Joy. They're not always entirely believable, but they both evince uniquely effective, and different, ways to make your skin crawl. At just over 90 minutes, Thoroughbreds is organized like a novel, with chapters, and packed with lots of twists and turns and some nicely conceived scenes. The resolution felt random to me, like late rounds of a musical chairs game. It's not entirely clear who is a victim and who is not, or maybe I don't want to believe what the movie presented me. I can't think of a better way to end it myself, so whatever. The thing about thrillers is they are movies whose best parts are usually in the middle, and often not at the end. Thoroughbreds has a pretty good middle.

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