Hell hath no fury like a teenage girl scorned. Rosehill Country Day students have the misfortune of learning this the hard way when they giggle as former It-Girl Drea (Camila Mendes) falls from grace. If Gen-Z teens were informed about required reading, they might know better than to cross it — legions of teen thrillers have hammered home that lesson over the decades, from “Heathers” to “Mean Girls” to ” Hard intentions.” But while most of these stories end with a body count, Netflix’s Hitchcock revenge tale knows that teenagers don’t need to wield knives to draw blood. Their caustic looks and razor blades can do this dirty work on a psychological level. And when they put their minds to it, their maniacal plans can destroy lives in a way far more visceral than death. That’s the premise of “Do Revenge,” a thriller with the slick style of a 90s teen comedy but all the darkness of a melodramatic revenge story.
Before you start a war for revenge, Drea isn’t your average school captain: don’t get me wrong, she’s as hip as she is badass, has a devoted clique, and inspires fear and awe wherever she goes. According to Cher Horowitz and Regina George, she is the undisputed queen at the top of the food chain. But she’s also a bit different from the other members of the Rosehill family. Unlike them, Drea doesn’t come from obscene wealth: she’s a scholarship student of color who spent years building her status and reputation. She doesn’t share their privilege, but she basks in its glow – until it’s snatched from her claws.
This is one of the many ways in which “Do Revenge” challenges the conventions of its all-too-familiar terrain. After a few seconds in Drea’s candy-coated world, it’s abundantly clear that writer/director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson is well versed in ’90s teenage fanfare. The film acts as an homage to an entire canon of movies, updating their canon to co-exist on a steamship that houses “Insatiable” and “Riverdale.” If “Do Revenge” feels familiar or predictable, that’s only because it revels in nostalgia — but when it combines those glimpses into the past with the realities of the present, that’s where it really thrives.
There is nothing scarier than vengeful teenagers
Drea’s downfall comes just as she’s at the height of her powers, preparing to rule the school during her senior year and finally grab her acceptance to Yale. But that triumph is decimated before it ever becomes real when an intimate Snapchat video sent to her boyfriend is leaked to the entire school. The only thing that stops Drea from physically exploding is a cute encounter with Maya Hawke’s effortlessly cool Eleanor, a queer alt-girl with a tragic backstory of her own—she’s still nursing the pain of public campaigning and being a social outcast. . The solution to the problems is therefore quite obvious: a la “Strangers on a Train”, they work together to exact revenge on each other (hence the grammatically challenged title).
The film’s contemporary bubblegum pop is the perfect setting to explore the inner darkness of its vengeful teens, but over the course of its run, “Do Revenge” also reveals a crazy center: the heartfelt core of this story is budding friendship between Drea and Eleanor, wounded girls who slowly realize they can let down their walls in the presence of their new boyfriend. If only they could nurture their relationship and find comfort in each other, maybe they wouldn’t have to derail their lives for the sake of revenge! Alas, their non-literal bloodlust is all-consuming as the two teenagers struggle to realize the importance of what is right in front of them – too obsessed with destroying the lives of the people who have wronged them.
Their acts of revenge, while heinous enough, aren’t even their worst crimes. Drea and Eleanor also make the mistake of shifting the blame from themselves to the rest of the world. And morally speaking, that’s where our protagonists get involved. How far are they willing to go for revenge? And at what point do they stop being the hero of this story? While grappling with these questions is an undeniable part of the “Do Revenge” experience, the desire to ignore morality is very understandable — once Hawke and Mendes get going, their dynamic is so entertaining that it’s easy to overlook a few dozen felonies. .
Self-awareness in all the best ways
On a meta level, “Do Revenge” is a glorious homage to ’90s films past, from the flawless needle drops and provocative pastel fashion to the ever-escalating third act, filled with plot twists, revelations and camp sense of humor. Honestly, the main thing holding the film back is its resistance to jumping over the ledge it so carefully types. “Do Revenge” is more bark than bite, and maybe it’s the “Strangers on a Train” of all, or the fact that it pays homage to death thrillers like “Heathers,” but a certain level of malice is glaringly missing.
However, following other poignant teen stories is no easy feat. Filling the void left by thrillers dating back to 1999, it would be easy to wallow in nostalgia, but Robinson’s co-writer Celeste Ballard clearly sees the value in blending past and present. When Eleanor graciously accepts a tour of the school cliques, it’s a callback to the likes of “Mean Girls” and “Clueless”: but instead of the goth, jock, and prep dynamic, we’re treated to the all-important subgroups of “The Witches of Instagram”, “horny theater kids” and the vegan “farm kids”. Instead of a hyper-masculine, empty-headed jock, the target of Drea’s ire is a faux-feminist trusty kid decked out in nail polish and earrings. His popularity is based on the executive alliance, and his androgynous fashion choices call out internet friends a la Harry Styles.
There’s a reason the movie cleverly casts a who’s who of today’s teen TV stars — Mendes obviously channels her “Riverdale” counterpart Veronica Lodge, but embraces her killer instinct while stripping away the terrible dialogue. Meanwhile, Hawke reminds us why cool-girl Robin became the start of “Stranger Things.” And if you think this is perfect casting, just wait until you see Rosehill’s director.
An acquired aesthetic
“Do Revenge” is self-aware in all the best ways, invoking movie references as much as the Internet talks. Embracing the fun of its conventions, this is a film that makes time for an extended makeover montage and also devotes plenty of screen time to a lizard in a dress. Best of all is how he takes great care to let his protagonists be agents of chaos, toe the line of pure evil, and — a far worse insult to a female character — obnoxious.
Either way, “Do Revenge” is an acquired aesthetic: minutes into its two-hour run, when Sophie Turner is decked out in pastel tennis clothes and screaming for Coke (the drug, not the booze), she’ll either be at length wave or outside it. If devastating divas in designer clothes aren’t your thing on a Saturday night, then you might be a little lost. But if the pastry school uniforms and Olivia Rodrigo’s booming voice are welcome, then this deliciously dark quest for revenge will easily steal your heart.
/Movie Rating: 7 out of 10
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