What would you get if you took Mean Girls, TikTok, psychological thrillers, and cotton candy and put them in a blender? The result would probably look something like Netflix’s dark teen comedy Do Revenge.
Do Revenge, which was released on September 16th, is a refreshing film that took me by surprise in more ways than one. It seems like Netflix is deep into its cheesy rom-com era when it comes to teen films (see: The Kissing Booth, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, etc.). While Do Revenge fits in with these films, it could be picked out of a lineup immediately. Everything from its writing, to its cast, to its colors feels brighter and more fun. The film seems to take its cheesiness and embrace it, rather than take itself too seriously. There’s a ton that I feel this movie got right, and a few things I think it got wrong: let’s discuss.
Casting, Casting, Casting
The casting of this film was first thing I noticed and the thing that initially drew me in. And this cast is stacked. Like a three-hour Jenga game with your little cousin stacked. The bottom line is: if you’ve paid attention to teen media at all in the last five years, you’re going to recognize someone in this film.
The movie stars Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke, a pair I didn’t expect but absolutely love. Mendes, who is most well-known for playing Veronica Lodge in the CW’s Riverdale, plays popular girl turned fallen queen Drea. When outside of Riverdale’s questionable writing and plot, Mendes’ acting really shines.
Maya Hawke, who is most well-known for her role as Robin Buckley on Stranger Things, plays Eleanor, the shy new girl.
Seeing these two together was like some weird neon fever dream. They reside in such different areas of my media-obsessed brain that it’s almost strange to think they exist in the same universe. This largely expands to the rest of the cast, some of whom can be seen on shows such as Outer Banks, Euphoria, 13 Reasons Why, and Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin.
While these are all talented actors, I think this odd mash-up situation can serve a greater purpose. Seeing so many familiar faces reminded me of something that I’m going to refer to as ‘The Promising Young Woman Effect.’ Promising Young Woman is a 2020 Black Comedy. When doing research for a paper on the film, I came across some interviews with director Emerald Fennell in which she talked about her casting process. Promising Young Woman deals with abusive men, and to play these men, Fennell chose men that are typically cast as nice, boy-next-door types. The casting of Do Revenge gave me the same feeling. I know these people, they’re my friends, they can’t possibly be evil, right?
Everyone Loves A Plot Twist
If life has taught me anything, anyone can be evil, even Austin Abrams. This being said, I can usually spot a plot twist a mile away, even if I don’t know what it is. Do Revenge, however, caught me by surprise. Right as I was about to call the movie predictable, they reveal Eleanor’s ulterior motives. This shocked me so much that I had to pause the movie and take a break. I think this is a really interesting testament to the film’s writing and Hawke’s acting in the role. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Hawke mentioned that she studied a bunch of male performances in order to create a character that is likable and able to do bad things at the same time.
The film really leans into this dark, odd comedy to the point where I almost got confused at this point. Who’s the villain, who should I be rooting for, and how could this possibly end? Despite the slight clarity issues, the plot twist’s bottom line seems to be that teenage girls might be psychopaths sometimes, but shitty men will never change.
“Hurt people hurt people, but I just don’t think that applies to teenage girls. I think sometimes they’re just evil.” -Eleanor
Respect Your Elders
Watching Do Revenge can also double for a spot that teen movie reference challenge. As unique as the film is, it certainly pays homage to the iconic teen films that came before it. There’s even a classic clique walkthrough, which is most famously used in Mean Girls. Some may call it a tired trope, but I love it every time. A paintball scene is reminiscent of 10 Things I Hate About You and the plaid uniforms scream Clueless.
Alongside these blasts from the past, the film has a clear Gen Z touch. Woke-ness that goes too far is becoming more and more prevalent in modern media. Hulu’s Not Okay is a great example of this. While I really liked Not Okay, it’s not always great. Netflix’s Senior Year seems to try and make a similar statement. While that film does feel hyperbolic in its criticism of Gen Z and performative activism, it fell flat to me and was outright cringey. Do Revenge, on the other hand, did a better job of including these criticisms while remaining campy and fun. Max’s performative feminism, for instance, felt a little too real. I could imagine myself in that auditorium wincing as everyone claps for Rosehill’s golden boy.
The film also felt more modern in its inclusion of queer characters. Do Revenge has multiple two-dimensional queer characters and features a storyline about getting outed. These characters aren’t super tokenized or stereotypical, either. I really liked this aspect as the film played on familiar tropes, but had different dynamics as well.
The Gen Z of it all does feel a bit campy, but in my opinion, it works well overall. There’s even a Taylor Swift reference when Eleanor says “The old Eleanor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead.” Swift did say there’s nothing she does better than revenge.
Lastly, the film is just so gorgeous to look at and listen to. The color scheme pops with pastel pinks and purples. I’ve never wished I had a school uniform more. Everything is crisp and pristine, even the psych ward looks like a fancy spa designed by a child.
Even if your local film bro disagrees, I argue that media should be both fulfilling, intellectual, and stupid fun. This film captures both and coats it in sugar. For these reasons and more, I absolutely loved Do Revenge. For the film’s incredible soundtrack full of popular hits and hidden gems, check out the Spotify playlist below!
“I mean is ‘do revenge’ even like correct grammar?” – Eleanor