Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke are ‘Thoroughbreds’ on Hulu

The rich are different from us. Thoroughbreds (2018) plays on this difference in ways you may not expect.

Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy star as Amanda and Lily, estranged childhood friends who reconnect after Amanda becomes something of a pariah in their affluent circle after a particular act of violence at school. Lily is essentially hired to be Amanda’s friend.

Amanda is an odd duck to say the least. Her deadpan candor and blasé attitude make her peers uncomfortable. As she confesses to Lily, she has no feelings and models her emotional reactions on the social cues of peers and parents. Lily, at first glance, is a Cinderella in a gilded prison created by her creepy stepfather (Paul Sparks as a cold, sleazy power player). It looks as if this budding sociopath is ready to pull golden child Lily into her darkness but instead Lily pushes Amanda to drop her smiling mask and let her true self show. More than liberating, it is disturbingly revealing.

It plays like Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures relocated to the dispassionate culture of Connecticut upper class affluence and directed at a dreamy remove. Writer/director Cory Finley brings a tidy balance to the imagery that emphasizes the order of this world of formal facades and social impressions. There’s a crispness to the scenes and a brittle atmosphere that Lily takes pains not to snap until Amanda’s arrival. Our golden girl, of course, has her own issues. She just hides them better.



It’s a highly controlled film about control, which makes the introduction of Anton Yelchin’s scruffy drug dealer to the children of wealth all the more welcome (it’s the last role he completed before his untimely death in 2016). Sure he’s a born patsy but under his stoner braggadocio is an innocent out of his depth in a culture of calculating rich kids.

Thoroughbreds takes an interesting tack on cinematic sociopathy and offers unexpected dimensions to its teenage characters. Best laid plans and all, it still manages to offer a surprise that, if not narratively convincing, adds a touching act of sacrifice to the cool, darkly witty drama.

There’s a wicked little satire under the cultivated surfaces and carefully groomed front, while the chilly alienation elevates this teen killer thriller with a mix of psychological drama and cool neo-noir. It’s a miniature that favors carefully crafted atmosphere and psychological intensity over murder mystery logic. The perfect crime isn’t nearly as important as the perfect presentation.

It earned a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for best first screenplay.

Rated R

Streams for a limited time on Hulu

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Thoroughbreds [Blu-ray]
Thoroughbreds [DVD]

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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