Director Cory Finley
Genre Drama | Thriller
Cast Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks
Release Date March 9th, 2018 (Limited)
Written and directed by Cory Finley, his writing and directorial debut, Thoroughbreds is a drama thriller about two upper-class teenage girls who decide to take matters into their own hands in an effort to solve all of their problems. The 28-year old Finley is a talented up-and-coming screenwriter, and when his agents sent the script to production companies and theater studios he expected that it would end up as a stage play but was pleasantly surprised by the interest. Oscar-winning writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash signed on to produce, and they were joined by Alex Saks and her production company June Pictures that recently churned out the Oscar-nominated film The Florida Project. The cast includes Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke, Anton Yelchin, and Paul Sparks.
With a uniquely powerful score and soundtrack matched only by its stellar cast, director Cory Finley’s debut Thoroughbreds is a tightly wound drama that will penetrate your subconscious. Finley has a vision and an in-depth understanding of human emotion, and that develops into a very unique and entertaining experience for viewers. Thoroughbreds never once “spoon feeds” viewers, instead it maintains the feeling that if you want to truly understand what is going on, you need to pay very close attention. For me that is the only way a tense drama is successful. I want to feel like it is my responsibility to process and decipher the deeper message a film has to offer, and honestly with many films that have a deeper underlying meaning, it really is the responsibility of each and every individual viewer to determine what that deeper meaning really is. There really isn’t an easy answer. It is worth noting that Thoroughbreds is a “different” sort of movie, and by that I mean it is unique and slower paced in many ways. This is due to the fact that the script was originally envisioned as a play, but thanks to studio interest it became a movie. I really enjoyed this element of the film but some viewers may find themselves put off by it, so keep that in mind if you tend to struggle with certain indie films.
Considered by many critics to be a dark comedy or even a horror thriller, I see Thoroughbreds as more in the realm of a dark and twisted suspense driven thriller due to its many layers, and well to put it in simple terms, lack of true humor (you may still chuckle due to some awkward situational humor). Each scene offers viewers a glimpse further into the minds of very unstable and complex characters, and you WILL feel the tension building. It really is incredible that this is the directorial debut for Cory Finley because of how creative and effective the camerawork was, from the way it followed characters down hallways and entryways, sometimes taking a different route and intersecting with the characters at some other point. You really need to see it for yourself to understand what I am trying to say. As I mentioned before, the score and soundtrack is absolutely amazing, and it goes hand in hand with the unique camerawork. A song that is first introduced during the middle of the film reenters our eardrums just as the end credits appear. It’s difficult to explain but this had a profound effect on me personally, and in some way serves as a culmination of what I took away from the film. I’m not even quite sure what you would call the genre, perhaps it’s in the same realm as Korn’s “Freak on a Leash,” but check out the song “Sila” from A Tribe Called Red. It really sets the tone. Thoroughbreds is one of those rare experiences that stays with you, and slowly begins to resonate with you that much more hours or days after watching it- to me that is the true definition of filmmaking as an art form. I was entertained throughout and found myself trying to make the extra effort to ensure I didn’t miss anything, but it really wasn’t until later the next day when I really started to truly appreciate it. I can’t wait to see it again.
The cast for Thoroughbreds is fantastic, including a group of very talented young actors. Anya Taylor-Joy continues her run as a rising star after her breakout performance in the critically acclaimed 2015 horror film The Witch. A native of Miami, FL, Taylor-Joy seems to have it all- youth, beauty, and most importantly a knack for taking advantage of her opportunities. The youngest of 6 children, she knew she wanted to be an actress early on and got her first break with a modeling gig. Her complex character in Thoroughbreds epitomizes her talents as an actress and further reinforces the fact that she has earned her rightful place in Hollywood. Taylor-Joy’s co-star Olivia Cooke, known for the series Bates Motel as well as one of my favorite coming-of-age films Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, genuinely impressed me with her ability to play a very serious role. Now granted, Cooke has proven she is most comfortable playing dramatic roles, her character in Thoroughbreds takes things to another level and she really is amazing. Cooke also landed a lead role in the upcoming Steven Spielberg sci-fi novel adaptation Ready Player One. The chemistry that develops between both lead actresses is absolutely top-notch. Paul Sparks (Boardwalk Empire, House of Cards) is great as well, and will make your skin crawl as the clearly entitled and on-edge step-dad who finds who eventually bites off more than he can chew.
Anton Yelchin delivers a chillingly impactful posthumous performance in his final role. The 27-year old St. Petersburg, Russia native passed away tragically on June 19th, 2016, in Studio City, CA. Yelchin was building an impressive career with roles in Star Trek: Beyond, as well as the violent thriller Green Room, alongside Patrick Stewart. In Thoroughbreds, Yelchin plays a misunderstood twenty-something with a checkered past, who ends up meeting his match when he crosses paths with Taylor-Joy’s character at a party. I absolutely loved Yelchin’s performance, and right up until the final scene I felt like this was the perfect sendoff for the talented actor who was taken from us much too soon. It was actually a bit surreal watching his character on-screen who commonly spoke of his future plans and the fact that he was destined to be successful and have a bright future- it’s just sad. Nonetheless, Thoroughbreds includes stellar acting from top to bottom and provides fans of Yelchin a powerful piece of art that they can hold onto for the foreseeable future. RIP.
Taking full advantage of a screenplay with incredible depth, Thoroughbreds is a tense drama highlighting some fantastic performances. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, but the best thing a film can be is a unique experience for viewers, and this is that and then some. Originally written with the expectation that it would become a play, Thoroughbreds may feel a bit too “different” for casual viewers but I urge you to give it a chance- I think it will surprise you. It does feel like a play with each slow developing scene, but it surely isn’t boring. Cory Finley may be a bit of an unknown at this point, but after a debut that started with rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, I have a feeling that his name will come up again very soon. The success of the film lives and dies with the overall vision of an ambitious script and a very talented cast, and even though I am truly saddened that this is the last time I will see Anton Yelchin on-screen, this is a worthy sendoff and I intend to add Thoroughbreds to my Blu-ray collection as my way of preserving his memory in some small way. Highly recommended.