Thoroughbreds review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
In trying to describe Thoroughbreds, I keep coming back to Ghost World. Here is a tale of two women who reconnect after graduating and discover their lives are a mixture of boredom and frustration. It seems that living within a rich suburban community would create a certain sense of bitterness for the bored to make something drastic a necessity in turning life around from the dreary. And for the scenario of these two, murder seems to be the cure.
Death begins early when the Amanda (Olivia Cooke) kills her crippled horse and is charged with animal cruelty. She returns home to be tutored by her childhood friend Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) whom she had grown apart from after the death of Lily’s dad. Lily now resides with a step-father she despises. Amanda is just crazy enough to believe that killing the step-dad is a great idea, especially when she initially believed that Lily had been paid to converse and bond with her via mother’s orders.
The motive for murder comes from disillusionment and weariness of the world. The initial proposal for death comes after their step-dad berates the two of them for their ways, disapproving of sleepovers and how they lay about the house. What a buzzkill, they figure. And so we have a Hitchcock situation where the two women conspire with how to commit the perfect crime because, hey, beats watching TV all day.
While the premise is Hitchcockian, the style is somewhat muddled in a format that seems to teeter between David Lynch style subtlety and an overtly dry drama broken into chapters. There’s some humor present but it becomes buried layers of cynism and pleasing production design, where they very construction of dialogue and scenes are more intriguing than the story and characters occupying. I never really felt much of the milieu of Amanda’s obsession with killing nor Lily’s desire for change, to the point where she willingly drugs herself.
A wild card for a portion of the film comes when Anton Yelchin pops up as a troublemaking drug dealer they discover at a party. He’d make a great killer to absolve Amanda and Lily of any correlation. He’d also make a great element of shaking things up in how he doesn’t fully trust the two women and the mistakes he could make along the way. My only desire would be that Yelchin occupied more of the picture as his continual bungling of the murder scheme added to the tension, whereas the third act becomes a bit too quiet with the contemplative nature of how messy murder can be.
Thoroughbreds has a certain odd appeal that never quite reaches a unique level of the wasteland of white or the insanity of culling but still looks good trying to reach that height. But there’s such an unflinching sensation of being dead in the water for a film all about a murder gone awry. The absurdity never feels all that absurd, maintaining a certain surreal dignity that I wished would break its chain by the time it goes the extra mile of the horrific by the end in its cruel conclusion. While it’s an entertaining watch, don’t expect it to be as the same breed akin to American Psycho meets Ghost World, aspirations I foolishly attached when proceeding into this picture.