By Michelle Reynolds, Staff Writer
“You ever think about just killing him?” This is the question that sets up the premise of the latest indie movie “Thoroughbreds.” Described as “American Psycho” meets “Heather,” “Thoroughbreds” is a clever whip of a movie that is receiving high praise, but it needs to go back to the editing board.
Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy), a polished teen who feels everything, and Amanda (Olivia Cooke), a detached teen who feels nothing, are two upper-class girls who rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Bringing out one another’s most destructive tendencies, the pair hatch a plan to kill Lily’s oppressive stepfather, Mark.
Released March 9, “Thoroughbreds” has many shining moments of brilliance that reminded me why I flocked to the theater. The dialogue was witty, the cinematography was pristine and symmetrical, as if every scene was meant to be a still, and the characters were unique. Olivia Cooke, (“Bates Motel,” “Ready Player One”) plays Amanda. It’s easy to see how her character could come off flat but Cooke plays right on the borderline. Her acting is subtle, but you could feel her desperation to understand feelings and connect with Lily.
Anya Taylor-Joy (“Blair Witch Project,” “Split”) plays Lily, who starts off as a posh, nice girl but throughout the movie morphed into an almost unlikeable character. While living a privileged life of personal trainers and tennis courts, Lily is naive. Behind Peter Pan collars, she is ruled by her emotions, turning her irrational. Not only was there a natural connection between the two up-and-coming actresses, but their relationship, while unhealthy, was fascinating to see unravel.
The late Anton Yelchin also starred in “Thoroughbreds,” with this being his last film. Yelchin got his start in indie movies and this is truly where he shines. While all the characters felt complex, Yelchin truly captured that struggle between being viewed as a cocky guy going places in life while also being a sad, unsuccessful man going nowhere. His character was a personal favorite and somebody that the audience could connect with.
There are many movies about rich girls killing their stepfather, and with the tagline “good breeding gone wrong” the premise was standard, yet “Thoroughbreds” was a sharp re-imagining of the generic plot. The one major downfall of this movie is that the antagonist, Lily’s stepfather Mike, was not actually a bad guy. Mike can come off as heartless, but he was not this villainous villain that the world needed to purge. Lily’s endeavor to kill him made her look petulant, and because of this, the plot falls short.
With a run time of 92 minutes, “Thoroughbreds” was an average length movie that felt overly drawn out. It was as if they made a cool looking trailer first and then tried to flesh it out into a full movie. It was originally written for a play and was then adapted for a movie, but honestly, “Thoroughbreds” would have been better off as a short film. That would have cut out all the unnecessarily long scenes, which would have emphasized the stylish and sharp editing and witty dialogue.
While the buildup of “Thoroughbreds” was slow, one of the oddest moments was that the climax was not revealed on screen. The whole point of the movie is the planning and murder and to not show the murder seemed like a cheat to the audience but it was understandable, blood would not have matched the mood of the rest of the film. Though an R-rated movie, it was not gory or violent. The ending itself didn’t feel justified or satisfying, but while not agreeing with the conclusion, I will admit, it was unexpected.
With a dramatic score that helped form a feeling that something was brewing, a great cast, clever dialogue and stylistic cinematography, “Thoroughbreds” tried to be a classic indie movie but instead felt like a good first attempt. “Thoroughbreds” is a diamond covered in dirt; it needs to be cleaned before it can shine.