You ever read about a movie that sounds so up your alley that you can’t wait for it to be released, and then it finally is and it managed lived up to what were probably unfair expectations placed upon it? Thoroughbreds is one of those movies for me. It’s a social satire told through the lens of two rich suburban teenagers, one of whom claims to feel no emotions, while the other probably feels them too strongly. They were friends when they were younger, grew apart, and are now unlikely friends again after initially being paid to be.
Amanda (Olivia Cooke) has been diagnosed with several different disorders and put on many types of medication. They haven’t worked. She feels nothing. She killed her horse and is currently awaiting a court date for animal cruelty. Her mother pays Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) to hang out with her, but after a while they become friends, again, for real. They’re very different but create a fascinating dynamic together. They interest one another and are both quick-witted, leading to fantastic dialogue. Some of the best scenes in Thoroughbreds involve the two of them sitting and talking.
Lily has a stepfather, Mark (Paul Sparks), who is a jerk. He’s not very nice to her, although he’s not physically or verbally abusive—emotionally abusive, though, perhaps. He just isn’t nice. Lily hates him, although struggles to bring herself to admit it. Amanda sees it. She suggests killing him, offering the proposal as a simple cost-benefit analysis. Only someone like her would make that kind of proposition and, while she does it early on in the movie, we’ve already got a strong sense of who she is as a character by that point.
The plot isn’t complicated. It follows something of a natural progression from here. The girls recruit a small-time drug dealer, Tim (Anton Yelchin, in his final role), to help them complete the task. Things don’t always go according to plan. Lily is hesitant throughout. The film’s best line, perhaps, surely runs through her mind when it comes to making the decision: “The only thing worse than being incompetent, or being unkind, or being evil, is being indecisive.”
Thoroughbreds is a fantastic movie. It delivers pretty much everything I wanted from it.
The interplay between the girls is a lot of the fun of Thoroughbreds. If the movie were about just one of them, it may wind up being insufferable. Together, they’re great. And the film does a great job of establishing them as characters, allowing us to get to understand what they want and what they think. It’s almost exclusively set in rich suburbia, which gives us time to contrast that with, well, potential murder—it’s the situations that come from this lifestyle and the people that inhabit it that drive that sort of feeling, after all.
Thoroughbreds works as both a thriller and a pitch-black, razor-sharp comedy. If you like black comedy, this is a must-see. And it even has some noir elements to, and the thriller aspects it brings to the table are effective. If it has a weak spot, it’s that it’s not terribly deep. While it’s about things, it’s not going to make you think that deeply about them. Is that a problem? Maybe. Its suburban satire isn’t as effective as maybe it could have been. It didn’t bother me, but there you go.
Thoroughbreds is a fantastic movie. It delivers pretty much everything I wanted from it, offering tons of pitch-black laughs, witty dialogue, and noir thrills all in a tight, 90-minute package. The actors—particularly Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy—are fantastic, the writing is solid, and while its satire elements might not be as deep or biting as some of its inspirations, it’s telling an engaging and funny enough story that it’s hard to care a whole lot. What’s there is sufficient.
Conclusion: Thoroughbreds is captivating from start to finish.
Recommendation: If you like dark comedy, social satire, or noir thrillers, see Thoroughbreds ASAP.