Directorial debuts are often a mixed bag, Quentin Tarantino, M. Night Shyamalan, and Alex Garland have all debuted with movies that are fantastic, while other directors such as Eli Roth, Corin Hardy, and Paul Feig all made less than average debuts. However, this is one of the best debuts I have ever seen from a director, this time being Cory Finley and the film being Thoroughbreds. I was not expecting a whole lot going into the movie, but my gosh, it is in my top 3 of the year. There’s so many marvelous things to discuss in the film, so I probably should just go into it.
So, as always, starting with the good, the best thing about this movie is without question the acting. If I did an award show, Thoroughbreds would without a doubt win the Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and probably best Cast Ensemble. The only thing that would be difficult about that would be deciding which of the actresses deserves Best Actress, Anya Taylor-Joy or Olivia Cooke. If I had to pick right now, I would say that it would have to be Olivia Cooke of Ready Player One fame. She gives a haunting performance which manages to put emotion into an emotionless character.
However, that isn’t attempting to disregard Anya Taylor-Joy who is proving to be the next great thriller actress following movies like Split and The Witch. In her performance, playing the exact opposite of Cooke’s character who feels nothing, feels everything as she handles her emotions towards her stepfather. Her performance, along with some excellent writing, really showcase an intriguing character who evolves throughout the film. However, there is one performance that right now, I would claim as the best of the year. Better than Josh Brolin in Infinity War, better than Blake Lively in A Simple Favor, even better than Toni Collette in Hereditary, is the late Anton Yelchin.
Yelchin plays Tim, a man the girls hire to commit a heinous crime they both very much want. From his introduction, Yelchin plays this role in a way that is very unsettling and unnerving. The way he portrays a somewhat pathetic character with such swagger is quite entrancing. While I don’t believe come February he will receive any attention, he certainly deserves it. A truly amazing final performance for Yelchin.
However, the movie isn’t only good for top notch performances. As mentioned earlier, the writing, especially for a screenwriting debut for, once again Cory Finley, is fantastically mysterious. The way he crafted his characters with this elegance is haunting. Not to mention the top-notch dialogue that has a mix of extremely dark comedy and razor sharp wit. Overall, it’s among the best screenplays of the year.
Another fantastic element of the film is the comedy. Now, while it isn’t a pure comedy such as Game Night or a pure drama like Hereditary, in Thoroughbreds, they don’t aim for constant laughs, and instead they attempt to pace out the jokes, but then follow it up with an incredibly intense moment. They’ll go from having a moment with hilarious slapstick to all of a sudden having a dramatic gunpoint scene. Olivia Cooke is given most of the comedy as her peculiar character has many more opportunities for laughs. It may not be the funniest movie of the year, especially because of the comedy gaps, but I would rank it in the top ten comedies so far, because when it swings for the fences (With a Lamp), it hits a home run.
The last thing I’m going to talk about on the positive side is the climax. Now, I won’t give anything away, but I really want to just talk about it. It isn’t like most climaxes with a terrifying giant CGI monster with tons of flashing lights and explosions. Instead, it is basically just one long shot of a still room. However, that shot accomplishes so much in terms of story, character development, and incredible acting in that one long shot, which makes it one of my favorite climaxes of the year.
I suppose I should probably mention a flaw that I did find throughout the film. As much as I want to say that this is flawless, I can’t. However, the only flaw I did find was such a nitpick that it really doesn’t matter. This is the one complaint I always see which people often cite when talking about how they didn’t like it, the fact it wasn’t a comedy like so many of the critics said it was. To that I say while it wasn’t a pure comedy, when it was, it was laugh out loud hilarious. I do think that they could have explored the comedy more and added some good comedy, but they never really did, which could have really propelled this movie to my No. 1 of the year, but it never does and stays at number three. Plus, kinda slow at times.
Anyway, that is my review of Thoroughbreds, by far the most underrated movie of the year. I suppose I can kinda understand why it didn’t get a lot of attention with such a dark subject matter. However, I would argue that the darkness really brings out the best in everything else. It brings out the great performances from the entire cast, it brings out the wonderful writing and characters, and it brings out a ton of comedy that can quickly shift between tones. This is a movie that you can definitely expect to gain more traction over the years, especially with anyone who loves a good crime thriller.