In Martha Stout’s “The Sociopath Next Door,” she points out to the reader that if they happen to be sitting there concerned that they might possibly be a sociopath, they aren’t. Actual sociopaths, she writes, may have some understanding of what they are, but it’s not going to distress them – because that would require the capacity to feel genuine emotion. So since that’s settled, what are the markers? None that you can tell from simply looking at someone, but if for example, they lie repeatedly, that’s a good indication.
“Thoroughbreds,” features two upper-crust Connecticut teen girls, one of whom (Olivia Cooke) confides to her former childhood friend (Anya Taylor-Joy, an eerily Neve Campbell clone) that she doesn’t feel anything, but she can compensate – and has been doing so her whole life. In one scene as they watch a movie, Olivia instructs Anya in the art of crying on cue. As for Anya, her domineering stepfather (Paul Sparks) informs her in one scene that she treats everyone in her orbit as if they’re her personal staff, and even Olivia concludes that empathy isn’t her strong point. Unlike the two Australian teens (Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet) in “Heavenly Creatures,” another movie about friends who team up to commit murder when they’re threatened with separation, these two are mostly ice cool. While Melanie’s and Kate’s passion for each other causes them to imagine an elaborate fantasy world of giant clay figures, Olivia and Anya rekindle their friendship solidly in their cushy world of private schools, parties and estates that come complete with tennis courts, giant outdoor chess games and waterfront views. But there are cracks that soon become apparent: Anya has been expelled from Andover due to cheating and is in danger of being set to a boarding school for problem girls. As for Olivia, her scandal has something to do with her horse – it’s gruesome, but fortunately is only described not shown.
When the girls first reconnect, they are tentative, but eventually Anya confides how much she hates her stepfather, and Olivia suggests she kill him. Anya doesn’t want to go quite that far, but then changes her mind. The girls enlist Anton Yelchin, a drug dealer with ambitions bigger than his intellect, who is on probation for sexual assault. Unlike “Heavenly Creatures,” the true story behind the crime is not (as far as I know) based on a real scandal. It is, however, a typical indie with the story told in “chapters.” There’s also the obligatory clichéd scene where a character goes underwater, and sees how long she can stay there, as well as a complete lack of indoor lighting, even in day time because – thriller. While I assume directors do this to up the creepiness factor, all it does for me is draw attention to the fact that they’re trying overly hard to be creepy. But in movies luckily no one ever barks their shins, or has trouble reading things, or falls down the stairs unless, of course, they’re pushed. That doesn’t happen in “Thoroughbreds,” but the crime itself is grisly and drawn out. The ending just made me go, “Huh?” but the movie does disprove the nursery rhyme that little girls “are made with sugar and spice and all things nice.” Some are borderline sociopaths. And some are just really troubled.