THOROUGHBREDS (2018) Movie Review – Formulates Its Own Genre With Clever Unpredictability
Thoroughbreds is the directorial debut for Cory Finley and stars Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy in what is one of the most clever and original films of the year that supersedes genres with a plot so well written it’ll have you hooked to the last. It has an insanely unpredictable story that adopts a weird and oddly unique tone and exhibits its quirkiness greatly across almost every department. There really is no other film tonally like it; it heavily integrates drama, mystery, suspense, slight horror, and psychological thriller elements with a darkly comedic through-line tying everything together. That’s a lot to take in but it’s executed astonishingly well. As the story goes nowhere near where you’d expect it to and hides surprises around almost every corner it’s best to go into this with as little prior knowledge of the plot as possible. The film follows Lily (Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Cooke), two very unique individuals who rekindle an unlikely friendship and opt to work out their problems together. Vague I know but the ride is worth experiencing first hand. It’s an indie film definitely not for the masses as its in-your-face quirkiness (not silliness) might not bode well with some but I for one admired the filmmaking and storytelling prowess exhibited here and thoroughly enjoyed the journey.
The unlikely pairing of Lily and Amanda, these two distinct characters with polar opposite personalities makes for an evolving relationship that is an absolute (Taylor-) joy to follow. Their contrasting personas constantly clash and as a result they develop as they both learn from each other and take from one another what they’re lacking. The character development that stems from some of their conversations feels so real and natural it’s a testament to the writing as well as the performances. These are two young actors who are two of my favourite young up-and-coming stars in the industry today. Anya Taylor-Joy is astounding in both The Witch (2015) and Split (2017) and Olivia Cooke displays an incredible level of emotional range through both Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) and Ready Player One (2018), so naturally combining these talents produces amazing results. They play off each other so well and exhibit a great level of chemistry to where every scene incorporating the two of them (which is most) stands out above the rest. But aside from these two leads someone in here shines just as brightly and that’s the late Anton Yelchin who passed away back in 2016 making this one of his final projects. This guy plays a character oozing with charisma and brings so much life to the role that he stands out against these two other polar opposite characters by being unique in his own right. With limited screen-time he adds to the intense thriller elements of the film and also contributes to some hilarious darkly comedic moments.
From a filmmaking perspective also this film is stylistic and bleeds quirky originality through its plot, cinematography, and score specifically. I implore you to try and guess where this story is heading at each moment because time after time Finley flips the script and throws things in a direction almost entirely awry. I loved this because it created an experience that remained fresh and new the whole way through where at no point did I feel like I was watching a story arc play out that I’d seen a number of times before. And it’s not just taking left turns for the sake of it, the directions the story takes are very much derived from the personalities and behaviour of the main characters. Much like the story is constantly changing the game, there is this amazing atmospheric score that has a tonne of variety to it and is giving every scene and every chapter of the film its own idiosyncratic flavour. Every music choice feels like it has a purpose to bring something out of every scene and it’s all cleverly orchestrated to match with the sounds of the environment. The cinematography fits in too with all of the stylistic choices utilising long takes for dialogue scenes, intriguing shot composition, and the recurring use of this slow zoom that effortlessly builds suspense.
I had an absolute blast with this movie and as far as originality in story and filmmaking goes in 2018 so far, this takes the cake. Cory Finley has accomplished what every up and coming director dreams of, to come out of nowhere and strike gold with your directorial debut. He shows off some great screenwriting and directing talent here and I’d say it won’t be long before his name is popping up again. The performances from Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke are incredible and bring so much character and life to this genre-bending film that almost entirely stands on its own. It may take a little time to settle into the odd nature of this film but once you do it’s an exciting ride that does not go how you think.