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Review: ‘Do Revenge’ does right by beloved teen classics

Photo courtesy Likely Story

By Riya Misra     9/27/22 11:56pm

Rating: ★★★★

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 film, “Strangers on a Train,” sees two strangers who team up to enact the perfect murder, swapping their victims so they could never be linked to the crime. Of course, the concept of a perfect murder is a compelling pillar of the psychological thriller genre — but what about a perfect revenge?

“Do Revenge,” released on Netflix on Sept. 16, is a playfully modern take on “Strangers on a Train,” infused with tropes and scenes from teen comedy cult classics. The film takes the classic murder plot arc, hammering it into a narrative reminiscent of “Mean Girls” or “Clueless,” adorned with high school tyrants, Instagram, cancel culture and, of course, revenge mommies. 

Drea (Camila Mendes) is a scholarship student and the popular girl at Rosehill Country Day School, a prep school that’s as pastel, pretentious and curated as its name may suggest. Drea meets her downfall at the end of her junior year, though, when her equally-popular boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams) leaks Drea’s sex tape to the entire student body. Max gets away scot-free, sheltered by his money, social status and performative feminism, while Drea is cast aside to the lowest echelons of Rosehill.

Enter Eleanor (Maya Hawke), a timid and awkward loner yearning for revenge on the girl who outed her when they were thirteen. The begrudging Eleanor and Drea team up and swap their targets in a masterful (character) assassination plot.

Set in a modern-day high school teeming with wokeness, cancel culture and performative activism, “Do Revenge” toes the line between coming-of-age and coming-of-rage with its female protagonists. Both Eleanor and Drea are rightfully enraged at their wrongdoers, but find themselves forced into silence by the complex social politics of wealthy suburban Los Angeles.

The grappling of female rage and revenge — think “Promising Young Woman” — is a subplot quickly moving to the forefront of media as patriarchal wrongdoings are exposed. “Do Revenge” embraces this new trope with vigor. In light of Rosehill’s rigid social norms, Drea and Eleanor’s fury is refreshing. Of course, it’s comedic to see Drea, who nicknames herself ‘revenge mommy,’ shift from popular girl into scheming, Machiavellian teenage assassin. But it’s also deeply satisfying to witness a female character who is so very angry.

“Do Revenge” is campy, ridiculous at times and far-fetched at best. It is not a plot to be taken seriously, but the beauty lies within the fact that the film is painstakingly aware of this. Indeed, when Eleanor is offered a tour of Rosehill’s cliques and cults, her response is: “As a disciple of the 90’s teen movie, I would be offended if I didn’t get one.”

To which her tour guide/love interest bites back with: “If you get offended, Rosehill has a designated safe space for that.”

By poking fun at itself, and at the tropes that the film both captures and tries to subvert, “Do Revenge” leaves the viewer little room for bitterness. What criticism is there to unleash, that the film hasn’t already levied on itself? Its self-effacement allows the viewer to simply revel in the absurdity of “Do Revenge”; no more, no less.

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