When I watched the trailer for Do Revenge last month, that was it Netflix Teen movie had me wrapped around an impeccably manicured finger in an instant.
The clip teased dark comedy, a dreamy, pastel world, and girls who are too cool to care about grammar. It stars Austin Abrams and Maya Hawke, who I knew from Euphoria and Stranger Things, and Camila Mendes, a Riverdale graduate I’ve caught up with on Instagram. The flick seemed unpredictable and destined to be a lot of fun.
When it came time for me to actually watch Do Revenge, I found the candy-colored film disappointingly boring. The heroic deeds of the main actresses are not as interesting or exciting as I had hoped. I haven’t really invested in their friendship and I’m pretty sure the film wants us to take care of that. The references to classic teen movies make parts feel repetitive. (Stop me if you’ve heard this before: A new girl infiltrates her high school’s popular clique and complicates things with her real friends…)
The setting is Rosehill Country Day, a Miami prep school bathed in cotton candy colors and filled with rich kids. But before we get there, we meet Drea, the school’s Queen B, who was recently honored by Teen Vogue, and her friends are throwing an extravagant party to celebrate. Not as wealthy as her peers, Drea attends Rosehill on a scholarship. Still, she’s managed to “meticulously curate the perfect life,” complete with cool friends, a dreamy boyfriend, and fellow students who seem to want to wear their skin.
But the chewing gum bubble bursts all too quickly. A sextape Drea sends to her boyfriend Max ends up on every classmate’s screen. She thinks Max leaked it, but the headmaster and her friends are on his side (“So much for believing in women,” she quips).
Enter Eleanor, a girl she meets at tennis camp over the summer. We learn that Eleanor is queer, she’s transferring to Rosehill, and she also has a sworn enemy: a girl named Carissa who started a rumor about her years before. The two teenagers strike a deal to “get revenge” by taking down each other’s villains. “I don’t want to make her pay,” Eleanor says of her opponent. “I want to burn them down.”
The film is directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, who is also behind the Netflix rom-com Someone Great. Teen stars Gen-Z would likely recognize include Talia Ryder (Never Rarely Sometimes Always), Alisha Boe (13 Reasons Why), Rish Shah (Ms. Marvel), Maia Reficco (Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin) , Paris Berelc (Alexa & Katie), Jonathan Daviss (Outer Banks), Ava Capri (Love, Victor) and Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones). Sarah Michelle Gellar plays the Headmistress.
Her outfits are eye-catchers here. Drea’s character goes through seemingly endless pairs of giant earrings. There are shimmering tie tops, platform boots and jeweled headbands. I would put Do Revenge back on just to study all the looks.
The surreal aesthetic isn’t just created by clothing — even a bathroom at school has dreamy, swirling cotton candy-colored windows. The stage at the Senior Class Ring Dinner is adorned with decorative white columns and powder white plants. The soundtrack suited the mood perfectly, filling the room with Olivia Rodrigo ballads and Billie Eilish ballads that will hit teenage (or young adult) crowds.
But what it fills its carefully crafted and surreal landscape with is far less interesting. After declaring revenge, what the ladies do is silly and feels like it could be seen in any Netflix teen movie. One of the things Eleanor does is just go to a party. Drea meets a guy and engages in a romantic color match scene with him. These scenes made me forget I was even watching a dark comedy.
In terms of comedy, the film confuses more than satisfies. Eleanor and Drea say things like “Make revenge mommy proud” and “I want her to hit me with her Tesla,” which is probably meant to poke fun at how teenagers talk, but I honestly can’t believe it imagine IRL social media monarch Mendes repeated on their social media channels.
The satire makes more sense when it’s aimed at Max (and therefore the Maxes of the world), an untouchable man who introduces the “Cis Hetero Men Championing Female-Identifying Students League” after Drea got intimate video leaks. In a makeover scene (yes, just like in She’s All That and other teen movies you’ve seen before), Drea tells Eleanor that it’s easier to destroy a girl than a man, and lists her grievances over hers unequal treatment.
Abrams comes across as a calculated friend who wields power and influence at the school. But even this interesting discussion gets lost in the many other things going on in this film.
The flick is inspired by Strangers on a Train, a thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, but apparently the similarities end with the idea of people agreeing to do each other’s dirty work.
Abrams and Game of Thrones star Turner deliver the best performances. (Turner appears in a cameo as a really insane teenager who lets out a delicious scream.) When they’re not there, the impeccable outfits and spot-on soundtrack often steal the scene.
I really wanted to like Do Revenge. And it can be worth tuning in just to be dazzled by the outfits. But if you want to do teenage intrigue, do Mean Girls instead.
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