Friday, March 23, 2018

Thoroughbreds Expertly Uses A Grim Tone And Great Performances To Make A Memorable Film

Something I've really liked seeing in recent movies about teenagers is interesting subversions of typical movie teenager stereotypes. I have no clue if this is accurate or not, but the past few years feel like they've been populated by movies about teenagers made by adults who never get to see humanistic portraits of who they were as teenagers. This means numerous unique visions of the teenage existence have managed to come forth in recent years, many of them in the form of character-centric drama/comedy hybrids. Thoroughbreds is yet another entry in the canon of unique modern-day teenager-oriented fare, but it's a different animal tonally and in terms of what kind of themes & characters it wants to explore compared to its brethren.

Thoroughbreds is a bleak to the core movie, one that's punctuated by moments of dark comedy but mostly is fixated on using it's darker tone to explore the complexities of two seemingly stereotypical teenage girls. One of these girls is Lily Reynolds (Anya Taylor-Joy), who lives a comfortable life thanks to her wealthy parents but conceals a disdain for her step-dad underneath a positive exterior, while the other is social outcast Amanda (Olivia Cooke), who is constantly upfront about her inability to feel emotions. Lily and Amanda manage to hang out one day after Amanda's mother pays Lily $200 to spend time with her daughter, but they soon begin to be inseparable friends despite their seemingly at-odds personalities.

This isn't a story about how they become friends though, that occurrence transpires early on in the plot. No, Thoroughbreds is about what happens when Amanda puts the idea into Lily's head that maybe her life would be better if her troublesome step-dad was deceased. From there, we get to learn more about each of their individual lives and why they act how they act, making Thoroughbreds a character study laced with depravity that proves to be utterly absorbing. As characters in Cory Finley's screenplay, Lily and Amanda each get strong personalities from the get-go that is highly entertaining to watch bounce off one another and that's even truer as the pair get more and more in over their heads as the story progresses.

Cory Finely's writing has a wicked fascination in watching their plan spiral out of control and reveal deeper complex layers to their personalities in the process. A level of unpredictability paired up with insightful characterization drives the story forward and it's a combo that proves to be highly transfixing to watch, especially since the two lead actors are acing their roles. Anya Taylor-Joy, only on her fifth feature film role, is already showing remarkable versatility as an actor, her work here depicting a seemingly well-off girl wanting more control over her life is quite unlike anything she did in either The VVitch or Split. As for Olivia Cooke, I have actually never seen her act before this, but she's incredible, her deadpan line deliveries are highly amusing and she's so good at inserting small easily identifiable humanistic traits in the body language of this heavily unorthodox character, she's absolutely terrific here.

And then there's the third lead character, the most prominent supporting player, a drug dealer named Tim played by the late Anton Yelchin in outstanding fashion. Yelchin's work here is fantastic, he's able to be convincing portraying both the cocky side of Tim whose convinced he's gonna get the world wrapped around his finger in no time and also the side of him that's far more vulnerable (the way Yelchin plays off Tim's reaction a head wound is marvelous) without missing a beat. Truly, Yelchin is giving a great performance and the same can be said for Taylor-Joy and Cooke, though it isn't just in it's three primary performances that Thoroughbreds manage to impress.

Perhaps the other most notable positive aspect of this production is the chilling score by Erik Friedlander. Heavy on drums and accompanying noises like the squawk of a bird, it's an unorthodox collection of orchestral music that instills a sense of intense slowly mounting dread into the viewer, a perfect musical accompaniment to this story. Meanwhile, Cory Finley makes an impressive directorial debut here, especially in his handling of the actors in his cast and in the clear confidence that comes through in adapting his own grim vision of teenagers coming into their own identities. It's a vision that may not be for everyone (there was at least one person who walked out of my sparsely attended screening), but it was certainly for me. Thoroughbreds is top-notch stuff with a devious attention to detail when it comes to executing both compelling character arcs and a mesmerizing plot that constantly escalates in grimness.

No comments:

Post a Comment