Not since Mean Girls has a teen revenge flick been so engaging, quotable and utterly addictive.
Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s Netflix film, released September 16, follows high school queenpin Drea Torres at the height of her success and popularity. After she’s dethroned via a leaked sex tape, she teams up with scorned transfer student Eleanor Levetan so they can exact revenge on each other’s tormenters. Since nobody at the esteemed Rosehill Academy knows they know each other, nobody will suspect them of performing cruel (and occasionally felonious) acts on their classmates.
Playing our endlessly narcissistic revenge mommy Drea is Camila Mendes of Riverdale fame. Her performance is simply delicious, a queen bee completely oblivious to her own venomous stinger but hyper-focused on those who sting her. Maya Hawke (Stranger Things) completes the other half of the vengeful duo as Eleanor. Hawke’s Hollywood heritage is evident in the way she plays Eleanor, effortlessly cool like mother Uma Thurman with the cultivated grit of father Ethan Hawke, but talent isn’t hereditary. Hawke cultivated that all on her own and she leaves it all on the screen, cavorting effortlessly between a meek pawn in Drea’s scheme and a conniving bitch in her own right. Mendes and Hawke play off each other like Janis Ian befriended Courtney Shane: an utterly toxic duo you can’t help but root for.
This is supported by Austin Abrams (Dash and Lily), who plays Rosehill’s golden boy Max Broussard. His performance as the textbook Nice Guy, totally respectful of women and certainly not someone who would ever stoop so low as sending revenge porn to protect his own fragile ego. Abrams somehow balances being a boy everyone in school wants to be with and a sniveling weasel with a believable ease that comes with the character’s level of power and privilege. Sarah Michelle Gellar is hilarious and scathing as the Headmaster, not unlike Allison Janney’s character in Ten Things I Hate About You.
Hawke’s character isn’t the only disciple of the 90’s teen movie, as Robinson and costume designer Alana Morshead have beyond exhibited. Pre-makeover Eleanor is somewhere between Tai from Clueless and Cady Heron from Mean Girls, but comes out of the montage as a Fern Mayo Bratz doll. The school uniforms are very Cher Horotwitz, fitting as her surname graces name of one of the school buildings, and the tone can be best compared to Heathers (1988). While Do Revenge doesn’t capture how high school works, it certainly captures how high school feels through terrific camp and occasionally painfully-honest black comedy.
It’s the subtle, nuanced storytelling that construct the strengths of this film. The 4-D chess of this film’s drama is honest and brilliant, with a genuinely tasty third act twist that left me in genuine awe at how well-crafted it all was. From Drea and Austin’s performative public activism to the more tactical rumor campaign Drea’s ex-clique conducts to save face after a massive scandal, it’s a sharply written microcosm of modern interpersonal politics and how noble causes can be weaponized for personal gain.
Rounding out the film is its soundtrack. It contains the perfect mix of old school grunge, including “Celebrity Skin” by Hole and “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger, and Gen Z anthems like “Brutal” by Olivia Rodrigo and “She’s All I Wanna Be” by Tate McRae. It ties the film and its influences together quite seamlessly, somehow making a film that is undoubtedly timely but inevitably classic.
Do Revenge takes the best ingredients from the most iconic teen films and puts them in a blender for the perfect revenge smoothie. Like a Bitchasaurus Rex, Do Revenge is deliciously twisted in a way I didn’t know existed anymore.