THOROUGHBREDS is about two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindling their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Before one can dismiss this as a boring teen chick flick (though it is a bit of a teen chick flick), THOROUGHBREDS is a deliciously black comedy that won the Best Film Award at the Denver International Film Festival and nominated for Best Film at the London Film Festival. And it is a very good film!
When the film opens, Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) is tutoring Amanda (Olivia Cooke). These two have been friends before but have not seen each other for a while. Apparently, Amanda’s mother has hired her, besides the tutoring, so that the isolated Amanda can have a friend. Amanda is a person who feels nothing, though she has learnt to fake feelings that include crying on cue. Lily on the other hand, feels everything.
As the plot thickens, they decide to do away i.e. kill, Mark (Paul Sparks), Lily’s stepfather as he is a complete dick and besides doing her and her mother no good, does no good for anyone else in the world. They blackmail the local drug dealer, Tim (Anton Yelchin in his last role) to do the killing while they stay away as an alibi. However, when Tim chickens out and never shows up, the story gets nastier.
THOROUGHBREDS demonstrates the worse in men, without any sexual allegations (as going on in today’s current events) involved. This is personified in Lily’s stepfather, Mark. Mark is self-centred, obnoxious, rude and plainly a bad human being. Finley’s script is clever enough to reveal this side of the male character.
Another brilliant touch is the character development undergone by both Lily and Amanda. It is not really character development but character change. As the story progresses, Amanda’s character flows into Lily’s and vice versa. By the end of the film, it is difficult to distinguish the two, as the two start to work together.
The film also brilliantly contains one line that poses a very important question to everyone: “Do you think your life is worth living?” This line also explains Amanda’s reason for going through her final deed in the story.
The soundtrack is varied. The suspenseful moments are accompanied by a tribal soundtrack complete with the sound of bongo drum beats and screeching while other moments by classical songs like “Ava Maria”.
Finley’s music is divided into untitled chapters, each one radically different from the previous.
One might complain that the film’s pace is a bit slow, but the film is nevertheless compelling. One might also complain that the characters are distant and one cannot feel close to the characters. This might be true but one should not feel close to characters on a black comedy. The film also contains some Hitchcockian moments that would do the Master of Suspense proud. Warning: spoiler alert (skip the bold italics but I wish to make the point.) The actual killing of the stepfather is not shown on screen, but the segment showing the blood on the gloves and apron of the murderer is more effective.
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2017 under the title THOROUGHBRED. Indie news accurately describes the film as HEATHERS meets AMERICAN PSYCHO. If you like your entertainment twisted, you are in for quite the ride!