“Thoroughbreds” excites as well as befuddles
Finley’s directorial debut will definitely have audiences in a haze leaving the theater. | Photo Courtesy of cafecomfilme.com
Suburban Connecticut provides the perfect setting for a clever arthouse thriller, one that so happens to include a duo of spoiled teenage girl protagonists. Any film with a premise that mixes those characters with a plot to kill a stepfather definitely brings in audiences who seek not only thrill but also a little bit of dark comedy.
In Cory Finley’s directorial debut, “Thoroughbreds,” which hit theaters on March 9, Finley brings audiences into his own realistic but weird depiction of the real world. The set-up of the film leaves audiences completely on edge as they slowly but surely meet the two protagonists, Amanda and Lily portrayed by Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy, respectively. Finley does a fantastic job of using consistent but haunting music to insinuate themes throughout his film, starting from the very first scene. The instrumental pangs give off subliminal rushes of anxiety during the restless waiting for more to unfold on the screen.
“Thoroughbreds” made for a very complex picture filled with psychological commentary on solitary living, wealth and loss. Lily tries to pick up the pieces of her broken heart after the loss of her father years before while living under the authority of an unloving and cold stepfather Mark, played by Paul Sparks. Through Lily’s eyes, Finley attempts to paint an almost bloody illustration of how we should see him. He wants to depict Sparks as a highly grotesque antagonist that the audience should hate, but this often falls flat.
Although Finley does a brilliant job on the set design, wardrobe and casting, his hand at dialogue leaves much to be desired. He gives his best attempt at subtlety by keeping it minimal, clever and witty, which works well some of the time, but often leaves the audience confused about where their loyalties should lie. Finley obviously wants the audience to side with the girls and desire the stepfather’s death, but this leaves audiences questioning why the stepfather is even depicted in such a vicious light. This film does feel like a debut film, although clear talent on Finley’s part can be seen. He still does not understand character development in the old ways of sages like Aaron Sorkin and Wes Anderson.
Besides the set-back of characterization, the film still presents an original take on the spoiled rich girl persona, surprising viewers with its avant-garde scenery and impressive young actresses. Not to mention the late Anton Yelchin’s performance as Tim, a low-life but well-meaning local who becomes wrapped up in their psychotic plans for murder. Yelchin brings about a necessary reality to a convoluted and often worrisome mentality that these two young girls possess. All in all, Finley should be aptly recognized for bringing a new and fresh look into the difficult process of grief, and what being around the wrong company during that process can do to someone’s mental health.