Corey Finley, writer and director of the high class balancing act in Thoroughbreds, presents a tremendous debut for a playwright inexperienced in the world of film. In his film, Amanda (Olivia Cooke), an emotionless teenager in limbo due to unfavorable actions, and Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy), her longtime “friend” at odds with her mother’s new husband, devise a plan to rid Lily of the mentally and emotionally abusive stepdad. Part dark teen comedy, part revenge drama, and part psychological thriller, Thoroughbred proves not only a fantastic debut but also a grippy drama of companionship and mental stability.
Paired with a score from Erik Friedlander (also to be heard in Oh Lucy! debuting in Seattle this weekend) that dances through the frustrations and eccentricities of the film, the film’s strength lies more in Amanda and Lily’s companionship than in the plotting to rid themselves of Mark (Paul Sparks, cruel, oily villainy), the stepfather eager to chastise and belittle Lily and her oblivious mother Karen (Kaili Vernoff, blinded by Mark’s money). Lily is a nymph, a beautiful young woman but rather mysterious. She exposes little; our first interaction is essentially a paid play-date with Amanda. She is resistant to allow any honesty about their past, placing a facade over Amanda’s past and pretending they are good friends helping each other study for the SATs. Amanda however wears her lack of feelings on her sleeve. She is stoic and sardonic, open about people’s unease with her flat demeanor.
Amanda plays passive chess game against herself on Lily’s giant chess board; Lily seeks a solution to her stepfather’s presence. This movie shows Gone Girl that you can have women be terrible without having them fake their own rape. As the plotting stumbles through a connection by boredom and history, two portraits of sociopathy shift initial perception of external appearances and internal ethics. Anton Yelchin’s final appearance reminds of the skeevy treachery he can pull off; a grunge Charlie Bartlett spin off role when it all went pretty wrong. Thoroughbreds opens at a trot and canters for its bulk, but when it gallops, Amanda and Lily’s life together scrapes the bottom of the barrel. They’re alone; they’re very alone, and they do not give a fuck.