“Thoroughbreds” Brings Darkness to Big Screen
by Sophie Lee
There is darkness lurking in the private school halls of “Thoroughbreds.” The film, which managed to slip largely under the radar in the midst of other newly-released blockbusters, features two female leads played by Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy. Because the girls are in the middle of high school, the film is classified as a “teen thriller.” However, nothing about this dark, understated film corresponds with the over-the-top movies typically found in the genre. The plot follows its leads as they plan the murder of Lily’s (Taylor-Joy) stepfather. Amanda (Cooke) becomes her accomplice after revealing that she possesses no emotions or conscience whatsoever. This leaves her as the frank, sometimes manipulative voice of the film, while Lily finds herself as the “good girl” who is inexplicably drawn to Amanda, giving into her less socially acceptable desires.
The film is not likely to be a hit at the box office due to its slow pace and soft climax. Larger audiences tend to gravitate more towards slicker, Hollywood hits. Perhaps this is why the trailer has such a different mood than its accompanying film, trying to make the movie seem a bit more bombascious than it is. In reality, the movie is quiet and the leading women deliver their lines monotonously, never betraying a significant amount of emotion. This means that the real meaning of the movie is found in its subtleties. The film questions what we could get into if we had no accountability to our emotions or conscience.
The only overtly emotional performance is given by late actor Anton Yelchin, who filmed his part before he passed away in 2016. He plays an older drug-dealer that the girls attempt to blackmail into helping them execute a murder. He is also the most sympathetic character, despite being the most socially unacceptable. There seems to be an implied meaning there, a criticism of wealth and its dilution of morality, but the film never pushes this point, leaving the impact vague and unaffecting.
The best thing about this movie is how unsympathetic the main characters are. Typically, female protagonists are not allowed to be callous or cruel without cause. Women in films have to be relatable or have their rough edges rounded out by the end the film. In “Thoroughbreds,” the filmmakers do not seem compelled to justify the cruelty their protagonists display, allowing the women to permeate a section of the emotional spectrum that is usually closed off to them. This allows for a movie-watching experience that feels almost rebellious.
Unfortunately, the characters’ greatest strength is also the film’s greatest weakness. The girls are cold and detached. They are ultimately not compelling enough to be memorable more than a week after watching the movie. While the plot is interesting enough to sustain attention for the duration of the film, it never quite reaches “gripping,” and at the end of its 90 minute run, the audience is left wondering what the real takeaway is. “Thoroughbreds” is a fun, interesting watch, but it is not a must-see.