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'Thoroughbreds' is a 'Double Indemnity' subbing in two calculating Connecticut girls

By: Pat Padua The Washington Post
March 9, 2018 Updated: March 9, 2018 at 4:35 am
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Anya Taylor-Joy, left, is Lily and Olivia Cooke plays Amanda in "Thoroughbreds." MUST CREDIT: Claire Folger, Focus Features

Starring Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin; directed by Cory Finley; 90 minutes; R for disturbing behavior, bloody images, coarse language, sexual references and some drug use.

The first feature from writer-director Cory Finley, "Thoroughbreds" is a darkly comic tale - shot through with the hard-boiled fatalism of film noir - about two teenage girls in an affluent Connecticut suburb of New York.

The troubled Amanda (Olivia Cooke of "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl") has been struggling to rejoin society after her mutilation of a prized horse, an act that has turned her into a social outcast. Her childhood friend Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy of "The Witch") lives with her mother (Francie Smith) and coldly arrogant stepfather, Mark (Paul Sparks), in a mansion where she seems to have it all: a refined lifestyle, a prestigious internship and good college prospects.

As the film opens, a tenuous reunion has been engineered by Amanda's mother, who is paying Lily to tutor (and befriend) her disturbed daughter. Despite the financial arrangement, an uneasy alliance develops between the girls. Amanda - who speaks in deadpan because she no longer can feel emotion - impresses Lily with her jaded outlook, and Amanda soon plants the seed of a solution to Lily's problematic relationship with Mark. This proposal leads them to a small-time drug dealer (the late Anton Yelchin), with whom they negotiate about taking on their dirty work.

A psychological thriller set in a young-adult milieu, "Thoroughbreds" was inspired by such classic examples of film noir as "Double Indemnity" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice," both of which Finley says inspired him as he wrote his script. Yet the movie's plot machinations and brooding tone are, at times, a little too clever. And Erik Friedlander's anxious, percussive score reinforces what we already know: These are troubled people.

A vicious satire of the upper class and its discontents, "Thoroughbreds" paints a dark picture of a generation that, because it has been denied nothing, has come to value nothing.

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