Comments Off on Thoroughbreds

Before directing Bad Education (2019), Cory Finley made quite the splash with Thoroughbreds (2017). Thoroughbreds was a sleeper hit, gaining notoriety over time by word of mouth. While it was in its first run at theaters a few of my students had gone to see it and they recommended it to me. Since that moment I have yet to encounter someone that hadn’t enjoyed the film.

It isn’t even that Thoroughbreds is one of those game changing independent films, it’s just superbly made. Cory Finley knows the thriller genre inside and out which, when combined with a morbid sense of humor, allows Finley to rearrange familiar tropes so that they take on new meanings. There’s a lot of Pedro Almodóvar and Brian De Palma in Thoroughbreds, particularly in the means by which Finley relocates Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train (1951) into a teenage girl milieu.

What’s really brilliant about Thoroughbreds is that all of the masculine trappings of the genre are systematically displaced. The scene where the two teenage protagonists practice crying not because it will allow them to carry off their murderous plot, but because performative vulnerability is essential to society’s definition of girlhood is hysterical. This one beat undermines completely the classic trope in thrillers where a man often rehearses his grief for the spouse he is about to murder.

Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy are superb together as Amanda and Lilly, two girl’s plotting the demise of Lilly’s stepfather (Paul Sparks). There’s a comedic timing between the two that really gives Finley’s screenplay some punch, especially when issues of economic and social class are being addressed. And although Taylor-Joy has been enjoying a good deal of acclaim after “making it” in The Queen’s Gambit (2020), anyone who saw Thoroughbreds back in 2017 was absolutely sure that Taylor-Joy was destined to be a star.