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Thursday, March 8, 2018


The Buzz: Playwright Cory Finley, who had never stepped onto the set of a film production before, makes his directorial debut here with a film that plays pretty close to his stage roots in much of the way it's staged. Thoroughbreds, which many critics have hailed as one of the best debuts in years, took the Sundance Film Festival by storm last year with how it tackles empathy and the line where it meets sociopathy among the wealthy. It's funny how we return to that fertile ground every so often, but there's probably something to be said about socio-economic inequities and consumer culture that continually drives narratives towards this direction. The rich will eat the poor and even their fellow rich and all that. I was excited to get my eyes on this one, mostly because I'm pretty much down for any film Anya Taylor-Joy happens to be in, for better or worse.

What's Great About This Movie: ...And she's quite good in it. Playing Lily, a hired tutor for Olivia Cooke's Amanda. Amanda is your classic budding sociopath, Lily leans the other way, and their friendship starts to give and take until new layers are revealed with each character. Lily isn't as wholly impenetrable as she might seem, and Lily hides a much darker side. Both Taylor-Joy and Cooke are quite compelling throughout, and they'd need to be in what is basically a two-hander requiring them to fill a lot of empty space within the narrative. Additionally, Finley does just enough to make the film breakaway from any tendency he might have to make this not much more than a filmed play (see: Roman Polanski's Carnage for what not to do in this arena), the rookie has a nice sense of how to handle the camera and navigate the larger set pieces required to breath just enough life into the surroundings to keep me from wondering why I wasn't watching this off-Broadway instead.

What's Not-So-Great About this Movie: Truth be told, Thoroughbreds doesn't really offer much more than that, it's two finely tuned performances that are chained to a somewhat asphyxiating screenplay. These two characters talk a lot, and I mean a lot...and while it gives the audience a great insight into their own inner workings, at some point it just becomes a drone. And sadly, Anton Yelchin gives little more than a phoned-in appearance in what turns out to be his final performance. It's a film filled with good ideas, and with just a little more judicious work, could have had something special and memorable. Instead, I'm struggling to even think of any impression it left on me at all.
Final Verdict: Thoroughbreds, the kind of movie you go see to get out the rain and generally don't hate yourself for spending the money on it. Otherwise if you're looking for a better take on this sort of thing, just pop in American Psycho or Heathers again.
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