A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Thoroughbreds is an indie drama about two teenage girls who plan a murder in affluent, suburban Connecticut. The movie has been compared to American Psycho, Heathers, and Heavenly Creatures because of the way it explores an intense (female) friendship and how it shows that a lack of emotion and empathy can lead to disaster. It has a couple of bloody, disturbing scenes, but only one sequence involves violence taking place on camera (the two leads threaten and injure a man who's left with a bloody head wound). Other scenes make it obvious that violence took place off camera, and in one scene, a character's gloves and clothes are splattered with blood. There's lots of strong language (mostly "f--k," "s--t," etc.) and some innuendo, but no romance. Parents and teens who watch Thoroughbreds together will have plenty to discuss afterward: the depiction of status/privilege, the amorality of what the main characters plan, and the sense of entitlement that teens tend to project.
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What's the story?
THOROUGHBREDS begins with a menacing shot of Amanda (Olivia Cooke) staring into the eyes of a beautiful horse while holding a large knife. In the next scene, Amanda arrives at an impeccable Connecticut mansion, where she waits for Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) to tutor her. It turns out the two 17-year-old high schoolers used to be good friends but haven't spoken in a while. They quickly get reacquainted. Amanda soon confesses to Lily that she doesn't process emotions like a typical empathetic person. After Lily admits how much she can't stand her new stepfather, Mark (Paul Sparks), Amanda suggests that Lily consider killing him. At first Lily is offended and breaks off contact with Amanda, but after discovering Mark's plans to send her off to a boarding school for troubled girls, Lily enlists Amanda to cook up a murder plan. At first the duo tries to blackmail Tim (the late Anton Yelchin), a petty drug dealer, into a contract killing, but things don't go as planned.
Is it any good?
This compelling indie drama's two lead performances -- with a memorable turn by the late Yelchin -- are outstanding enough to help viewers forgive the film's flaws. If Thoroughbreds is any indication. playwright-turned-feature director Cory Finley, like Martin McDonagh, seems fascinated with violence and morality and the various ways people can hurt one another. The setting of manicured lawns and expansive brick mansions (one which boasts not only marble walls and columns but also a tanning bed) is ideal for a drama about two young women with a whole lot of issues. Finley doesn't judge the girls (he humanizes each of them), but he also doesn't let them off the hook. As Amanda observes to Lily, there's nothing really overtly evil about her stepfather; he's just an "a--hole" she wishes were out of her life. He's a bro-ish jerk who wants to send Lily to the boarding school equivalent of rehab. Sparks, it should be noted, is scarily good as the sort of man who spends more time working on his body than really speaking to his wife or stepdaughter.
Despite the movie's dark proceedings, there's a heavy dose of humor here, mostly courtesy of Yelchin, in what is his final posthumous screen role. As a 25-year-old petty drug dealer who has dreams of one day owning the kinds of homes his young customers live in, Yelchin's Tim has some of the film's more memorable lines. The scene in which Tim discovers that Amanda and Lily are blackmailing him to kill a man just because he's got a conviction on the books and peddles marijuana and club drugs to eager rich teens is notable for how devastated and defeated Yelchin looks. He, like any adult viewer, knows they're right -- pretty, white, rich girls get second chances that he'll never be afforded. The movie's final act isn't quite as riveting as the brilliant setup, but this is a thought-provoking and engrossing crime drama.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does the movie explore socioeconomic status and class? Do you agree with the girls that rich, white young people are nearly unpunishable compared to those who are poor and struggling?
- In theaters: March 9, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: June 5, 2018
- Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke, Anton Yelchin
- Director: Cory Finley
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: High School
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing behavior, bloody images, language, sexual references, and some drug content
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