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Thoroughbreds

“some people are born bad, but most of them are just bred that way”

The contrariety of coalescence meets American Psycho in this friendship-laden installment that begs for layering and nuance, unfortunately lost on inexperience  or perhaps a failure to read more. Story finds two friends with opposite psychological mappings becoming entangled in a web of spurious decision-making that makes for plenty of sense if you don’t think about it.

An insufferable, routine-driven father who sees his daughter as a responsiblity center, the unfolding of a plot that finds him snuffed during his obsessive conceit. If it wasn’t for my personal experience of living through a step-father who likely deserved the same end, I would not have found this so engrossing and critical in what I hoped would be a finale that tethered on brilliance. And while disappointment arrives, moments of brilliance do exist. Agreeing with Carla Meyer,at least the girls abstained from meaningless discussions of boys and having pillow fights as highlights of their evenings.

This auspicious first installment by Cory Finley, with its superb sound mixing and very capable dialogue, was worthy of recognition for the debuting director, but largely overlooked, with mere nominations at Palm Springs, Philadelphia Film Festival, and Sundance. David Elhrich of IndieWire was perhaps less coy (and rightly so) about the quality of the premier, entitling his article: “How a 28-Year-Old Playwright Who Had Never Been on a Film Set Directed the Best Debut of the Year.” Rightly noted by Frank Swietek:

One does have to notice the expertise with which cinematographer Lyle Vincent lays out the scenes in carefully-composed widescreen images, and the sound design which, along with Erik Friedlander’s brooding score, contributes to building an oppressive atmosphere.

At the same time, the idea of the contagious effects of friendship is hardly sufficient to sustain the haphazard narrative that asks for perhaps too much in its finale’s unlikely unfolding. Well done, but strangely unsatisfying.  Half of the characters were meandering on-screen without the requisite additive to pay them for their participation. Stomaching the farfetched precocity was at times difficult, but nothing compared to Ellen Page in Juno, of course. Entertaining and clever at times, Thoroughbreds suffers the fate of inexperience in a script that relies too heavily on performance without the substantive language to carry its ambition. Without a strong story, the initial allure and appeal of finely created characters (Olivia Cooke & Anya Taylor-Joy) begets impatience. But for the short length of duration, the movie would have fallen apart like Mother!

RATING: C+

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