Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) are friends who have grown apart but find themselves coming back together in the new movie Thoroughbreds. Neither is particularly happy in their suburban Connecticut lives and are often a source of frustration to their parents and family. Lily is upper-crust while Amanda is a social misfit. One thing they have in common is their hatred of Mark (Paul Sparks), Lily’s stepfather.
With a shared goal in mind, the pair begin to consider the possibility of murdering him to rid the world of an odious human being. The idea becomes more and more concrete until they reach out to a small-time local hood named Tim (Anton Yelchin, in his final role) for help. That’s on the beginning, though, as their newfound sociopathy only escalates thanks to the self-reinforcing nature of Lily and Amanda’s friendship.
There’s not much story to the first poster, which is meant simply to introduce us to the two girls at the heart of the story and make it clear they are not up for suffering anyone’s shit. The two are shown sitting on a couch, presumably watching TV or something, with big, bold copy laid over the photo informing the audience this is a case of “Good breeding gone bad.”
That same tagline is used on the second poster, which shifts the perspective to the wall across from the couch they’re sitting on, this time much more obviously in a very nice home with high ceilings. They’re just hanging out but “young and bored” is clearly meant to imply that they will be getting up to no good.
On the final poster that tagline is still used, but it’s relegated to the bottom half of the poster where an upside down photo of Lily’s house is seen. At the top, standing right side up, are Lily and Amanda, surrounding by a bright pink background and a collection of positive quotes from critics who saw the movie at one of its festival appearances.
The teaser trailer gets started with Lily and Amanda talking with Tim about a business proposition the two have for him. While the specifics aren’t laid out, the talk of needing alibis and scenes of blood being scrubbed from carpets make it clear nothing good is happening.
The first official/second actual trailer starts off by introducing us to Lily and Amanda as they’re hanging out watching TV. Amanda doesn’t have a whole lot of natural emotions or feelings. Lily is the opposite, feeling everything deeply. She hates her father and Amanda suggest killing him. They meet the drug dealer/criminal Tim, who they hire to take care of the problem. It’s clear the girls take matters into their own hands and start to execute their own plan, with darkly hilarious results.
Taylor-Joy and Cooke are both fantastic in what’s on display here, playing their characters note-perfect to convey where each one falls on the emotional spectrum. It’s exactly the sort of twisted take on female empowerment we need right now and looks pretty funny in that wholly inappropriate way.
There was one more short trailer that came out just a couple weeks before release that boiled the pitch down to its essence, selling the movie as a story of two young, bored, rich girls who decide to do something terrible not only because the stepdad is a creep but because it means they would feel something.
Online and Social
Focus Features gave the movie its usual online treatment, with an official website that let you scroll down to view a collection of trailers, review pull quotes, photos, an “About” section with a brief synopsis and bios of the cast. Off to the right on the splash page are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A 30-second video was used as a promoted post on Twitter in the last week or two before release accompanied by a link to buy tickets. There were also a few online ads I encountered that used some of the key art to lead people to the official site where they could learn more.
Media and Publicity
After a generally positive screening at Sundance 2017 the movie was picked up by Focus Features for eventual distribution, though it waited on the shelf for a year.
There wasn’t a whole lot of press activity immediately prior to release, at least not as of this writing. A few interviews with Taylor-Joy and Cooke, often together, but nothing substantive. Most of the coverage between Sundance and release seems to have come from the release of marketing materials, which is all that kept the movie on anyone’s radar.
I like the nasty, violent attitude that comes through throughout the campaign as it shows the two girls taking on a problem in the only way their bored minds can fathom. While it has some festival buzz (that’s a year old) in its favor, it also comes amidst a slew of such films. But it has an edge the others don’t seem to and that may make some difference, assuming the campaign reaches anyone outside the film critics and others who have been following it over time.
Outside of that there’s a nice brand consistency in the small campaign that conveys the same attitude from start to finish and across media. The focus never veers far from the two young women in the lead and their performances are the strongest reason offered for people to take a look.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.