Do Revenge (2022) Netflix Review: A Hitchcockian reworking of the teenage school-girl trope that doesn’t always hit the highs
Teenage girls can be absolute assholes. Umm…before you hold me responsible for that statement, let me clarify – it’s not me, it’s what director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson claims in the first few minutes of her sophomore feature “Do Revenge.” A film that opens and closes at a party and revels in the meanness and psychotic behavior exhibited by the species called teenage girls, this black comedy feels like a rarity. And while it sort of overdoes its own subversion at times, there’s no way you wouldn’t enjoy its twisted nature, especially when you realize how cleverly Robinson adapts Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train by setting it in a teenage wasteland populated by ‘staying fake.’
The party that opens this story introduces us to protagonist #1 – the Alpha it-girl Drea (Camila Mendes). She has peaked her high-school shenanigans by not just being a part of the popular crowd, but also by handling and keeping everything intact in order to get into Yale on a scholarship. However, all her dreams come crashing down when she sucker-punches her boyfriend and school president Max (Austin Abhramas) for allegedly leaking her sex tape.
This brings us to protagonist #2 – Eleanor (Maya Hawke) the beta, new alt girl. She is queer, awkward, and constantly in denial that she has to face her fears at some point in her life. Also, she is the new transfer to Drea’s school – Rosehill Academy; an elite school in Miami that somehow makes Clueless feel like it needs to go back to the shopping mall for a makeover.
Anyway, the two girls meet at Tennis camp and while there aren’t initial sparks; looking at how both of them are at the two extreme ends of the spectrum, they instantly connect over their shared idea of being shamed to existence and carrying trauma inside them. Eleanor is worried that her sadness, which she has only pushed herself out of, will come to the surface again because her old bully Carissa (Ava Capri) – someone who allegedly started a fake rumor about her back in summer camp, also goes to the same school.
The rest of Do Revenge (which is pointed grammatically incorrect but truly sincere going by contemporary Gen Z standards) is all about the girls teaming up to find dirt against each other’s tormentors in order to bring them down. What ensues post this is a satire that strives to upscale its stilted homage to teen comedies while reworking it in a true Hitchcockian fashion. And while it somehow overdoes its welcome – constantly juggling across problematic tropes with a clever whitewash, it does feel like a satire done right.
There are other issues with the overlong narrative though. Both Drea and Eleanor have been assigned love interests – in the ways of Russ (Rish Shah) and Gabbi (Talia Ryder) respectively. And while the young heartthrob of actors are delightful to watch, their arcs are not developed enough for the audience to care, or to make their existence necessary. While guest stars like Sophie Turner’s Erica & Sarah Michelle Gellar’s The Headmaster (a nice little nod to Cruel Intentions) are nicely done, none of the other characters around Drea and Elenor really leave a mark.
This brings me to the true strength of the film – the fabulous turns by Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke. While Mendes’ unhinged mean-spirited, controlling and manipulative girl can feel a little too much at times, the Riverdale star manages to ground her in a few sequences where she actually lets her guard down. Maya Hawke, on the other hand, has completely championed the awkward, mumbling teenager from Stranger Things and here she manages to take it a step further with a performance that feels it was truly written for her.
Overall, Do Revenge is a film that revels in the campy extremes of Teenage movies. It satirizes it and dwells in its cliches by trying to refigure them for a woke audience. While it doesn’t necessarily succeed; because it gets busy trying to justify things it feels are problematic (forgetting what it wants to be), there’s a specific twisted delight that offers and I guess you are here for that and nothing else.