Two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Together, they hatch a plan to solve both of their problems-no matter what the cost.
There’s always something so enticing about a directorial debut. A completely clean slate that represents both the promise of a new movie that could yield a new style from a potentially gifted filmmaker, but also the idea that this first feature could be the first of many to come from said filmmaker. Obviously this is all somewhat ambitious and every year we see dozens of new releases from upstart directors, but it’s always great to see one emerge that really feels like something promising, and Cory Finley definitely fits that bill.
‘Thoroughbreds’ is one of the few films I would describe as being comedic whilst also not being particularly funny. While that may sound like a contradiction in terms what I mean is that the movie has the pacing and flow of a comedy in that it has the ability to breeze passed certain narrative details that would otherwise slow the story down. There’s a briskness to the way the narrative unfolds that actually works to make the movie that much more engaging. On paper the plot has the trappings of a twisted psychological thriller but through execution the movie felt much more watchable than something of that genre.
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 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015), 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.
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.
A brilliantly shot and scored film with some stellar performances. For a directorial debut, Cory Finley handles his material with an impressive amount of restraint, maturity and confidence; it weirdly reminded me of Paul Thomas Anderson, even though it’s nothing like his work. There’s also an affinity for details in Finley’s visual language that, while sometimes come across as gratuitous in that I can’t really place how they serve the story, do help to single his filmmaking out as a distinctive presence. This also extends to the characters which through nothing more than the way Finley frames certain people at certain times are still allowed to breathe amid the fast-moving plot. ‘Thoroughbreds’ is the kind of movie which flies by and yet still has plenty of substance to dig into.