When I watched the trailer for Do Revenge last month, theteen movie instantly had me wrapped around an impeccably manicured finger.
The clip teased black comedy, a dream-like, pastel world and girls too cool to care about correct grammar. It stars Austin Abrams and Maya Hawke, who I knew from Euphoria and Stranger Things, and Camila Mendes, a Riverdale alum that I kept up with on Instagram. The flick seemed unpredictable and destined to be a lot of fun.
When the time came for me to actually view Do Revenge, I found the candy-colored movie disappointingly bland. The story feels familiar, borrowing from classic teen movies with the effect that parts feel repetitive (rather than homage-y). It’s too long, and plenty of things that happen are just plain silly. The leading ladies’ exploits aren’t very interesting or thrilling, and it’s hard to invest in their friendship, which I’m pretty sure is what the movie wants us to care about.
The setting is Rosehill Country Day, a prep school in Miami that’s drenched in cotton candy hues and stocked with rich kids. But before we arrive there, we meet Drea, the queen B of the school who’s recently been recognized by Teen Vogue, her friends throwing an extravagant party to celebrate. Drea isn’t as wealthy as her peers and attends Rosehill on scholarship. Still, she’s managed to “meticulously curate the perfect life,” complete with cool friends, a dreamy boyfriend and fellow students who seem to want to wear her skin.
But all too quickly, the bubblegum bubble pops. A sex tape Drea sends to her boyfriend Max ends up on every one of her classmate’s screens. She believes Max leaked it, but the school headmaster and her friends side with him (“So much for believing women,” she quips).
Enter Eleanor, a girl she meets over the summer at tennis camp. We learn Eleanor is queer, she’s transferring to Rosehill, and she also has a sworn enemy: a girl named Carissa who spread a rumor about her years prior. The two teens strike a deal to “do revenge,” taking down each other’s villains. “I don’t want to make her pay,” Eleanor says of her antagonist. “I want to burn her to the ground.”
The movie is directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, who’s also behind the Netflix rom-com Someone Great. Among the teen stars Gen-Z would likely recognize are Talia Ryder (Never Rarely Sometimes Always), Alisha Boe (13 Reasons Why), Rish Shah (Ms. Marvel), Maia Reficco (Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin), Paris Berelc (Alexa & Katie), Jonathan Daviss (Outer Banks), Ava Capri (Love, Victor) and Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones). Sarah Michelle Gellar plays the headmaster.
Their outfits are a stand-out here. Drea’s character cycles through seemingly endless pairs of humongous earrings. There are shimmery tie-front tops, platform boots and bejeweled headbands. I’d put on Do Revenge again just to study all the looks.
The surreal aesthetic isn’t just created with clothes — even a bathroom at the school has dreamy, swirly cotton candy-colored windows. The stage at the senior class ring dinner is decorated with white decorative columns and powder-white plants. The soundtrack fit the mood perfectly, filling the space with Olivia Rodigo bangers and Billie Elilish ballads that will hit the spot for teenage (or young adult) masses.
But what it chooses to fill its carefully crafted and surreal landscape with is far less interesting. After declaring revenge, what the ladies get up to is silly and feels like it could be seen in any Netflix teen movie. One of the things Eleanor does is just go to a party. Drea meets a guy and engages in a romantic paint fight scene with him. These scenes made me forget I was even watching a dark comedy.
When it comes to the comedy, the movie confuses more than satisfies. Eleanor and Drea say things like “Make revenge mommy proud” and “I want her to hit me with her Tesla,” which I assume are meant to poke fun at how teens talk, but I honestly can’t picture IRL social media monarch Mendes repeating on her social media channels.
The satire makes more sense when it takes aim at Max (and thus, the Maxes of the world), an untouchable male who introduces the “Cis Hetero Men Championing Female-Identifying Students League” after Drea’s intimate video leaks. In a makeover scene (Yes, just like She’s All That and other teen movies you’ve seen before. It makes no case for why it needs revisiting.), Drea tells Eleanor that it’s easier to destroy a girl than it is a guy and lists her grievances with their unequal treatment.
Abrams is convincing as the calculated boyfriend who wields power and influence at the school. But even that interesting discussion gets lost in the many, many, many other things going on in this movie.
The flick is inspired by Strangers on a Train, an Alfred Hitchcock-directed thriller, but apparently the similarities end with the idea of people agreeing to carry out each other’s dirty work.
Abrams and Game of Thrones star Turner deliver the best performances. (Turner appears in a cameo as an actually unhinged teen who delivers a delicious scream.) When they’re not around, the impeccable outfits and spot-on soundtrack often steal the scene.
I really wanted to like Do Revenge. And it may be worth tuning in just to be dazzled by the outfits. But if you want to do teen scheming, do Mean Girls instead.