The term “thoroughbred” commonly refers to a pure-bred horse and is usually associated with immense wealth. It can also mean highly trained or skilled. The pretentiously titled Thoroughbreds is a great movie that just misses out on being something special.
Starring Olivia Cooke as Amanda, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Lily Reynolds, Thoroughbreds is a 2017 thriller about two former childhood friends who have seemingly rekindled their bond. Anton Yelchin, who died two weeks after the film finished production, is also in the film.
Thoroughbreds revolves around the relationship between Amanda and Lily. At first, the movie is painfully familiar. There is the girl who claims to never feel emotion, the girl who hates her stepdad, a forced friendship that turns into something more, and a seemingly endless stream of witty banter. All the ingredients are there for an edgy teen angst movie.
Thankfully, Thoroughbreds rises above its seemingly simple premise with its strong writing. The movie markets itself as a black comedy – and it is funny – but this is most definitely a thriller. Even the most normal scenes have an underlying tension and every relationship seems to be built on anxious moments. This is most obvious between Lily and her stepfather, Mark, but can also be felt between Karen and her connections with her husband and daughter.
The most tension filled relationship may be the one between Lily and Amanda. More often than not they are working together, yet their actions and comments make it clear they are not friends. Even calling the two “partners” may be stretching the definition of the word, but there is obviously a strong bond between the two. Amanda and Lily are the central focus of Thoroughbreds and the characters are appropriately well written.
Thoroughbreds is one of those rare movies where strong characters show no development. Amanda’s is the strongest proof of this lack of development. Amanda does not evolve over the course of the movie and instead reveals her true nature. During the movie, there are subtle hints that Amanda may not be all that she seems to be and the shocking finale is not so much a twist as it is a logical conclusion. Taylor-Joy deserves credit for giving the role the proper nuance it needed for full effect. The fact that the exact same thing can be said about Lily and Cooke further demonstrates that movie’s great writing.
There is also great use of sound effects. Sound in thrillers is very important since if not done correctly, tense moments can become predictable. High pitched sounds are used unexpectedly to heighten moments. Instead of showing gruesome scenes, sound cues are used to convey what is seen or felt. Thoroughbreds is a perfect example of a character-driven movie not allowing sound to overpower its story.
Thoroughbreds is a good movie, but it is far from perfect. While it never makes any major mistakes, there are little things that hinder the movie. Once Tim (Yelchin) is introduced, cracks begin to develop. Tim is dynamic and full of energy and next to him Lily and Amanda come off as too sardonic and too disillusioned. In the story’s grand scheme it is perfectly logical, but it may be off putting for some. Tim also serves little purpose to the story and seem to have been written as an afterthought. The title is the most poorly written part of the movie, as it only has a tenuous connection to the movie, even if it is vague enough to sound like it has a deeper meaning.
Thoroughbreds is an excellent movie that has what it takes to become a cult classic. The writing and acting are top notch and the film is a refreshing take on a familiar story. Thoroughbreds makes some mistakes along the way, but is a very enjoyable experience.