Do Revenge review: Camila Mendes did a mean version of Mean Girls

Alfred Hitchcock’s influence is evident in Netflix’s dark teen comedy Revenge. He was inspired by his 1951 thriller Strangers on a trainitself based on a novel by The Talented Mr. Ripley writer Patricia Highsmith. But instead of focusing on a meandering murder scheme, Revenge centers on a plot to kill the status of two members of the It Crowd.

The film fits right into the dark comedy canon about teenage cruelty – think Heathers Where mean girls. Director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (co-writer of Thor: Love and Thundercreator of Sweet/Vicious) weaves a neat 2022 update of the genre. A few romantic subplots slow down the middle of the film, but by the end the film regains its momentum and comes together for a satisfying ending.

[Ed. note: This review contains setup spoilers for Do Revenge.]

Photo: Kim Simms/Netflix

Revenge follows Drea (Camila Mendes), formerly the most popular girl in school, until her reputation plummets — not just because her ex-boyfriend Max released her sex tape, but also because she punched him in the face afterwards. Drea attends her exclusive prep school in Miami on a scholarship, while her ex (Austin Abrams) comes from a wealthy family. He has more social capital than her, so he is able to turn her friends and the rest of the school against her, claiming that a video of her phone was leaked and she assaulted him for no reason. Drea just wants to grit her teeth and finish her senior year, but that changes when she meets transfer student Eleanor (Maya Hawke).

Years ago, Eleanor became a social outcast when her crush Carissa (Ava Capri) spread a rumor that Eleanor held her down and forcibly kissed her. After landing in the same school as Carissa, Eleanor dreads seeing her again. After an emotional moment in the bathroom, Eleanor and Drea befriend the people who wronged them and hatch a plan for revenge, but with one important caveat. The two decide to switch targets for revenge: Drea will take out Carissa, while Eleanor will infiltrate Max’s group of friends for the ultimate revenge.

Like other movies in the mean high school girl subgenre, Revenge focuses on convoluted social conspiracies and vicious grassroots cliques. But it’s not a derivative or a cliché: instead, it’s a natural evolution of this type of film for 2022. Parts of high school are constant, but youth culture is changing rapidly, so films for teenagers – especially those that adapt or pay homage to older films. hardware — may feel outdated. Revenge dodges that curse because of how cleverly Robinson and co-writer Celeste Ballard update certain plot points.

a skinny blond boy in front of a banner that says straight cis men advocating for the female-identifying student league.  behind him, three men applaud

Photo: Kim Simms/Netflix

On the one hand, Max is a villain for 2022 — a handsome, straight, rich white boy who uses performative public awakening to hide his true motives. And as a privileged young man, Max is basically untouchable. But that just means Drea and Eleanor have to come up with an even more pleasantly complex plan to bring him down – and initially, it makes them easier to root for.

But as their actions escalate, their obsessions grow. Hawke and Mendes do a fantastic job of never giving the audience a clear person to root for. At first, their friendship seems inspired, as they unite against those who have wronged them. But then it becomes one-sided and toxic. And then it mutates into something else entirely.

It’s one hell of a ride, all done with influencer-worthy soft pastels. Part of the reason movies like Heathers and mean girls became so iconic due to their strong visual palettes, which played with the conventions of idealized adolescence in their respective eras. Revenge continues the trend, updating the look of the film for those intimately familiar with a perfectly calibrated aesthetic that fits perfectly under social media hashtags, be it “Instagram witch” or #glamgirl.

four girls in pastel colored school uniforms sit around a fountain

Photo: Kim Simms/Netflix

When the film focuses on revenge plots or Eleanor and Drea’s increasingly toxic relationship, it’s crisp and tight. But halfway through, a few romantic B-plots start to take center stage. Drea gets involved with Carissa’s friend, rebellious artist Russ (Rish Shah), while Eleanor flirts with Max’s sister, Gabbi (Talia Ryder). While some of these scenes are sweet, none of these relationships do much to make Eleanor or Drea any more likeable or despicable. They seem to exist in the sense that teen movies need mandatory romances, and nothing more. They end up dragging the film and slowing it down.

In the end, however, the film returns to Eleanor and Drea – and for the better. A series of twists bring them together and they play each other in deliciously unnerving ways. At points, the film seems to turn into a judgmental statement about the dangers of revenge, especially when Drea’s college plans are in jeopardy. But Robinson and Ballard smartly avoid those pitfalls, proving they understand what audiences really want from these kinds of movies: the indirect thrill of watching vicious teenage girls go to great lengths to get what they want, while navigating the complicated relationships they form with one another. Without spoiling themselves too much, Eleanor and Drea get both what they want and what they deserve. It’s a satisfying conclusion that neither punishes nor exalts them. Just ignore the cheesy epilogues where they court their future love interests.

Revenge debuts on Netflix on September 16.

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