There are very few movies I’ve seen that are more deeply twisted than THOROUGHBREDS, but that doesn’t stop it from being of very high quality from quite a few different perspectives.
Five months ago, sitting less than 50 feet from where I sat for THOROUGHBREDS, I watched Matt Damon portray a dark and twisted father in SUBURBICON. That film is the only one in my viewing history over the past couple years I can recall which rivaled THOROUGHBREDS in terms of the darkness, sadness, and depravity. And yet, it wasn’t half as good despite having the pedigree of the Coen Brothers, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Julianne Moore in its production. Cory Finley combines a strong script and great direction choices, and his cast brings it home in a major way.
Olivia Cooke won’t likely receive consideration from the Academy Awards for her performance here, but she absolutely should. Her performance provides an unbreakable backbone for the film, as she superbly embodies one of the most emotionally complex characters I’ve seen in years. I expect this role will help propel her to high consideration for roles which will likely result in her winning an Academy Award in the next 5 to 10 years. For anyone who has watched her performances in BATES MOTEL and ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL, it won’t come as any surprise.
Anya Taylor-Joy isn’t a name I was familiar with prior to THOROUGHBREDS, but she also takes command of an emotionally complex character and gives an exceptional performance. The plot unveils pieces of information about her much more slowly and subtly, so it’s hard to tell until at least halfway through the film that her character isn’t as completely straightforward as it seems. She certainly provides interesting juxtaposition to Olivia Cooke’s character, but as you find out later as details are revealed, there’s almost as much depth beneath the surface.
It’s always a welcomed surprise to find that an actor who passed away still had a performance waiting in an unreleased movie, so to see Anton Yelchin among the cast here was excellent. As per usual, he shined in his supporting role which had plenty of meat to it. And I like the fact that a young man interacted with two young women in a movie and neither of them ever expressed any romantic interest in one another. It’s reassuring that Hollywood is finding ways of displaying interactions between genders without needing to fall back on that sort of crutch.
The antagonist, of sorts, was an atypical “stepparent” (from Hollywood norms, at least) portrayed by Paul Sparks. He got a lot more to work with in this character than in his HOUSE OF CARDS role, and he performed nicely. The way he treated his stepdaughter was interesting to watch through her lens, but then takes additional depth later in the film when he expresses what he thinks of her during their confrontation.
The more and more I think about the film, the storyline, the subtext, and the performances, the more I’m looking forward to a second viewing. The only thing I didn’t like about the movie was the music choices, which were a bit too weird for my liking. I admit that it certainly added to the overall feel of the film, but it was a bit too much for me. That said, I will absolutely be watching to see what projects Cory Finley produces next, both stemming from his involvement as a writer and/or director.
THOROUGHBREDS certainly isn’t a film which will appeal to mass audiences, but anyone who can appreciate a dark comedy, likes a little weirdness in their films, or enjoys a psychological thriller should absolutely put it on their list!
My Rating: 88 out of 100