‘Do Revenge’ is a breath of fresh air for Netflix teen comedies

The streaming service’s latest attempt at a teen classic pays homage to movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s


Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Disclaimer: The following review contains spoilers for “Do Revenge’’

After a summer lacking in Netflix’s usual lineup of ten to twenty original teen comedies, “Do Revenge” was released, and I found it very enjoyable. Loosely based on Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train”, this film’s raison d’etre focuses on paying homage to the teen films our parents grew up with. Starring Camila Mendes (“Riverdale”) and Maya Hawke (“Stranger Things”), “Do Revenge” tells the story of Drea (Mendes) and Eleanor (Hawke) as they go through their senior year of high school while plotting the downfall of each other’s enemies, while paying homage to teen comedies of the 1980s and 1990s.

I personally never enjoyed Netflix’s previous attempts at modern classics of the teen movie genre. I could not wrap my head around how movies such as “The Kissing Booth” and “To All the Boys I Loved Before” had not just one but two sequels. Going into this movie, my expectations were low and that may have influenced how much I enjoyed this film. Additionally, since my parents showed me the teen comedies they grew up with in the 1990s during the summer of 2020, those films quickly became my favorites, and “Do Revenge” perfectly hits that nostalgia factor.

The most talked about aspect of this film is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s casting as the Headmaster of the high school. Known for her roles in classic 90s media such as “Cruel Intentions” (1999), among others, Gellar’s casting was crucial for this film’s goal of nostalgia. The character of the Headmaster was modelled after Kathryn Merteuil, Gellar’s character in “Cruel Intentions” after the director, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, had cast her in the role to increase said nostalgia factor, and it makes her performance even more entertaining.

“Do Revenge” has been compared to the previously mentioned “Cruel Intentions” in tone and themes. The latter is the modern retelling of the French novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, set among wealthy teenagers in a New York City private high school. The former does this as well, having the setting among wealthy teenagers, but this time in Miami, Florida. Other influences specifically seen are “Clueless” (1995), “Heathers” (1989), “The Craft” (1996), and “10 Things I Hate About You” (1999). The homages continue to the soundtrack with the inclusion of a cover of Kim Wilde’s “Kids In America”, but still includes contemporary artists such as Olivia Rodrigo and Hayley Kiyoko.

The costumes are a feature that makes this film one to remember. The blouses and plaid skirts are reminiscent of the uniforms in “Cruel Intentions”, the outfits of the titular Heathers Chandler, Duke, and McNamara and Veronica Sawyer in “Heathers”, and Alicia Silverstone’s yellow ensemble seen in all the marketing material for “Clueless”. The most notable difference is the color scheme. Instead of the dull, natural hues of the previously mentioned films, “Do Revenge” opts for a pastel color scheme, making it look more like a summer blockbuster.

Mendes’ performance is a highlight of the film, showing how her role in “Riverdale” is holding her back. The many facets of Drea’s character, especially her fall from grace, is combined to create a character that feels authentic and genuine. She adds a hint of diversity with her background as a working class, Latina woman, and this diversity is seen all throughout the film with the many people of color in the main and supporting cast. A big aspect of praise this film gets is that in contrast to “Stranger Things”, Netflix allowed Maya Hawke’s queer character to have a reciprocated love interest. In short, she was allowed to kiss a girl for once. While at first Hawke and Mendes’ characters may seem like recycled versions of their characters on “Riverdale” and “Stranger Things” respectively, it quickly becomes evident that is not the case. Unlike Robin Buckley’s quiet shy demeanor, Eleanor is bold and calculated. In the third act, it is revealed that she is the mastermind that constructed the whole plan, thinking ten steps ahead of Drea. She even spells it out from the very beginning, saying “I think sometimes [teenage girls are] just evil” and later saying teenage girls are psychopaths as the reason why she went to such great lengths to complete her revenge against Drea.

Even with all its rightfully deserved praise, “Do Revenge” is not a perfect movie. The ending was rushed and messy, putting it in stark contrast to the rest of the carefully planned out plot. While it made sense for Max (Austin Abrams), Drea’s ex, to have been the one to bring her down from the social ladder in the first place, I wish they had not made him give a villain monologue at the end but rather play around a little more with the idea that women are to blame for men’s actions that was seen in the beginning of the film as well as in today’s topics of conversations. I would have liked to see Drea and Eleanor not have a happy ending, instead showing how revenge is not a viable option when we are hurt. I would have liked to see them instead be reprimanded for their actions and end up where they were at the start of the film or even lower in the social hierarchy of high school. I would have liked to see a different method of “revenge” that included being the bigger person and showing off their successes to their enemies in a way that would make them angry and jealous, but alas, that would not make a fun story.