Rated: R for disturbing behavior, bloody images, language, sexual references, and some drug content. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: March 9, 2018 Released by: Focus Features
This stage adaptation from Cory Finley is tantalizing for a while in its deft handling of psychological teen horror tropes, perhaps a thriller that may be likened to aspects of Heathers and a more intricate, involving Heavenly Creatures. But not as satirical as it might seem, built on performances where disaffectedness rallies against diminution and style that delivers more than its less thematic and cohesive storytelling.
A less ostentatious and bombastic Thoroughbreds still benefits from its leads, Olivia Cooke (Ouija, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and Anya Taylor-Joy (Split), as well as admirable support from the late Anton Yelchin (Alpha Dog, Like Crazy, Star Trek Beyond).
The filmmakers use Connecticut affluence and privilege to demonstrate advantages of long-takes and less CGI, while insinuating more unnerving acts and characters positing them often just outside the frame.
Probably to the key to enjoying Thoroughbreds (symbolism lying within the title) is believing in the disparate personalities of (childhood chums) Taylor-Joy's Lily and Cooke's Amanda would connect through a mutual waywardness. Lily is back home in a sprawling mansion after not doing well in private education and is retained by her mother to tutor horse-mutilating Amanda.
Cooke is more dominant in the early sections and is bewildered why her old friend is up to being an educational resource. Lack of pity and aloofness are mirrored here and a perilous proposition arises when Amanda addresses Lily's feelings about her juice-cleansing stepfather Mark (Paul Sparks) who isn't too keen about have two girls in his abode while tending to his wife's tanning needs.
Embroiling Yelchin's low-level, registered sex offender Tim in their scheme channels the antagonism in a different way where deadpan and seemingly unflappable but rankling ire begins to simmer. In a way that allows for lensing and sound design (like Mark's creaky rowing apparatus) to become more prominent as the differing vantage points point to suspect voice-overs and chronicling.
Regardless, Finley's way to bait an audience may lead to unhealthy attentiveness for what may ensue does ensure that the neophyte director has a genuine gift for his craft. And, giving the latitude (and support) for Cooke and Taylor-Joy demonstrating much on-screen flair (especially through some discourse), while a cloistered Yelchin revealing the intensity and nuance that made him so popular among his peers and in the industry. Even if ultimately the pedigree inherent in the moniker and the initial aura never realizes its creative ambitions.