Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley, 2018)

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DarkImbecile
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Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley, 2018)

#1 Post by DarkImbecile » Sat Mar 10, 2018 7:40 pm

(It might be presumptuous to start a thread for this with zero prior discussion, but Thoroughbreds will earn it)

I didn’t know much about Thoroughbreds going in except that its posters appeared to be designed specifically as bait for domino harvey and that it had gotten some raves at Sundance 2017 before sitting on the shelf for 15 months. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be my early favorite of 2018 so far, but here we are.

Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy are excellent as two privileged northeastern girls - one super-rich and the other merely upper class, one a clinical psychopath and the other merely violently amoral - who unexpectedly bond over a plan to rid one of them of a bothersome step-parent. Taylor-Joy in particular is officially the Next Big Thing in my book, after this, The Witch, and Split; she has a moment early on where she’s encouraged to drop a facade of politeness, and the subtle changes in her eyes and stance as she embraces some brutal honesty are thrilling to watch.

The film establishes where it’s heading pretty early on, but the trip to that ending and the character details revealed along the way are fascinating and rarely unravel quite as one expects. I was worried when Anton Yelchin’s sleazy drug dealer becomes more prominent about an hour in (he’s good in his final role, but he can’t match the magnetism of the two women), but the film avoids the obvious pitfalls associated with that character and refocuses on the leads for an expertly executed climax.

Cory Finley - who had primarily worked in theater prior to this debut - gives the film the structure of a play (limited characters and locations, dialogue over action), but fully embraces and makes expert use of the cinematic tools available. The cinematography is stylish but not so showy as to be distracting, and the sound work is really striking, from Erik Friedlander’s percussion-heavy music to some perfectly exaggerated foley effects. Finley’s management of tone and pacing is impressive, and - in combination with the script and the work with the actors - his work adds up to an extremely promising debut and a darkly comedic showcase for two stellar young actresses.

Highly recommended, and absolutely worth a trip to the theater before it disappears (can’t imagine it’ll please most unsuspecting audiences enough to linger too long).

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mfunk9786
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Re: Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley, 2018)

#2 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Mar 11, 2018 2:53 am

All I know is that the trailer for this struck me as a movie that could have been made by, or made for, our dear friend Domino in a lab of some kind.

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Satori
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Re: Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley, 2018)

#3 Post by Satori » Sun Mar 11, 2018 7:21 am

I really enjoyed this as well. It walks a delicate balancing act in its depiction of the relationship between the young women: while one is amoral and the other sociopathic, their friendship is actually quite touching. The film takes their bond seriously in a way that most filmmakers would not have. I also like that it avoids any attempt to explain away their sociopathy via cheap shots at social media or internet culture. The scenes of them watching classic Hollywood movies together are a great touch.

I can also see the stage influence, particularly in the climax of the film
SpoilerShow
in which the murder happens off screen
Finley might go a bit overboard trying to prove his cinematic bona fides with the lengthy tracking shots up and down the staircases, although I really appreciated his precise framing of the two leads, especially when they mirror each other on both ends of the frame as in the photo above.

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Re: Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley, 2018)

#4 Post by Persona » Sun Mar 11, 2018 3:49 pm

Sounds a bit like Heavenly Creatures! Which I love... how does it compare to that?

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Re: Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley, 2018)

#5 Post by Satori » Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:35 am

Persona wrote:Sounds a bit like Heavenly Creatures! Which I love... how does it compare to that?
There are some obvious narrative overlaps, but they are fairly different films. Whereas Heavenly Creatures is interested in exploring adolescent sexuality, Thoroughbreds is intriguingly asexual. I actually thought this was to the film's credit because it lets it focus on other issues and ideas. It's been so long since I've seen Heavenly Creatures that I can't really speak to any formal or aesthetic overlaps between them.

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Re: Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley, 2018)

#6 Post by willoneill » Mon Mar 12, 2018 2:19 pm

Satori wrote:There are some obvious narrative overlaps, but they are fairly different films. Whereas Heavenly Creatures is interested in exploring adolescent sexuality, Thoroughbreds is intriguingly asexual. I actually thought this was to the film's credit because it lets it focus on other issues and ideas. It's been so long since I've seen Heavenly Creatures that I can't really speak to any formal or aesthetic overlaps between them.
Heavenly Creatures (from my memory) also has a lot of effects-driven fantasy sequences, while the film is very simply and starkly-shot, with almost no onscreen "action", so to speak. I saw this last night and one of my thoughts was how it could very much work as a play, only to find out that Cory Finley actually does come from a theater background.

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Re: Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley, 2018)

#7 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:24 pm

The similarities with Heavenly Creatures are superficial only. That film was about two normal girls who develop a friendship of such unhealthy obsession that they tip over into an unreality that makes murder seem like a viable option. Thoroughbreds is about two unhealthy girls with behavioural issues whose friendship actually brings out the best in them, odd as that may sound. Plus this movie is a black comedy, while Jackson's film is a lush character drama.

Something that fascinated me, and which I believe to be accurate, is how Amanda, our clinical sociopath, has no inner sense of right or wrong, but does have a more abstract sense of rightness better called justice. For her there are things that ought to be done. There is no emotional content behind it, but nevertheless: a horse who can't walk ought to be put down, and done so humanely (however incompetently) if there's a long relationship behind it; an awful step-father ought to be killed; and a friend ought to be sacrificed for, especially if that friend's life seems to be more worth living. I remember an interview with James Fallon, an eminent psychologist who famously discovered by accident that he was a clinical sociopath, in which he described having a similar sense of justice that was oddly abstract and cold-blooded. Kudos to Olivia Cooke for playing this role. It's not easy to take a flat character with no affective life and make that character interesting and even moving.

My favourite moment in the film was shaping up to be my least favourite: the 'asshole/villain reveals the lead's flaws accurately' speech the step father gives, a generally unearned moment in films meant to score points for depth or complexity. And then the movie saves it by having Amanda walk in and in her deadpan manner shrug and echo it: "It's not like he was off the mark. Empathy never was your strong suit." A good example of the film's mordant humour and also it's twisted depth: Amanda sees her friend clearly and, well, accepts her for who she is. It's two people incapable of meaningful relationships managing to have their own strange version of a meaningful relationship.

Really good film.

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