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dir-scr Cory Finley
prd Andrew Duncan, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, Alex Saks, Kevin J Walsh
with Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift, Kaili Vernoff, Chaunty Spillane, Stephanie Atkinson, Max Ripley, Leah Procito, Svetlana Orlova, Xavier Dillingham
release US/UK 9.Mar.18
17/US Focus 1h30
Let's play: Cooke and Taylor-Joy
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Brittle and very bleak, this black comedy takes a rather unnecessary swipe at the vacuous life of privileged teens, as if there's anything else to say on the topic. Even so, it's strikingly written and directed by newcomer Corey Finley, while rising stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke make the most of the twisted dialog. It also explores an aspect of Millennial culture that's rarely depicted on-screen.
In suburban Connecticut, Amanda (Cooke) is visiting her childhood riding buddy Lily (Taylor-Joy) for some summer tutoring. Amanda is in trouble because of the way she put down her family horse, but she's unapologetic about pretty much everything, provoking Lily until she finally cracks and reveals that she hates her fitness-obsessed stepdad (Sparks). Then Lily suggests that Amanda might be able to help her kill him. They use a bit of blackmail to get dodgy local drug dealer Tim (Yelchin) to do the job. But of course nothing goes as planned.
Pretty much everything about these girls is chilling, from their deep-seated self-obsession to the casual way they discuss getting away with murder. With her more glaring past transgressions, Amanda might be the more obviously troubled one, but Lily is definitely the more dangerous of the two, hiding her darker impulses beneath a sleek surface. Finley uses the camera to literally prowl around them, revealing details and secrets as they practice "the technique" or work on "the plan". They're downright terrifying.
Taylor-Joy plays Lily as such a tightly wound teen that we almost lean away from the screen in anticipation of her snapping. Cooke's Amanda is more overtly sociopathic, with her inability to feel emotion or empathy, but intriguingly she has a sharper moral compass. Both of these girls have had every opportunity and resource, growing up as the brightest and best, but they still feel that the world is letting them down.
This general disaffection is easy to identify with, although the extreme depiction here is sometimes rather annoying, making it impossible to sympathise with either girl. More engaging is the lowlife played by Yelchin (in his last role), a young man who, despite some setbacks, still holds to the belief that he can become rich and famous. He gets caught up in this situation without really trying, and he reacts to Amanda and Lily like we do, with nervous reluctance. And it's the way he holds on to his dream that resonates most strongly.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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