I’m not going to come right out of the gate and write the word out the way I want to (the SEO score would take if I dropped it in the very first paragraph), but “Do Revenge” had me from the moment they started using the “C” word so freely. Frankly, it’s one of my favorite curse words out there that still gets a bad wrap in the United States, so I don’t get to use that often and films often steer clear of using it more than once or twice, even if in British films where it’s more accepting. So for nothing else, “Do Revenge” gets a bump in score for simply throwing constructs of curse words out the window, and dropping the “C” word at just about every chance it gets. This may seem irrelevant (and you probably wouldn’t have even noticed it if I hadn’t brought it up), but the film’s entirety is made of up this same kind of unrestrained, balls to the wall storytelling and energy. “Do Revenge” truly gives no fucks, and approaches that same kind of scathing commentary with a modern day, self aware black comedy that shines brighter than you might expect and has more to say than you may even realize. And no, I don’t just mean the clever use of forbidden profanity, either.
Written and Directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (“Sweet/Vicious,” “Thor Love and Thunder”) and co-written by Celeste Ballard, “Do Revenge” follows Drea Torres, a socialite at the top of her game and the height of social status at her very rich and private high school who becomes knocked to the bottom of the totem pole after her narcissistic boyfriend Max (the top of the male food chain at the school) secretly releases a sex tape of her to the entire school. Reputation destroyed and her future in jeopardy, she meets another young girl at tennis camp over the summer named Elenor. A bit of a loaner and kind of quirky, the two strike up an unlikely friendship after realizing they both have people in their lives that destroyed them. They decide to do revenge, with each of them hatching and executing a plot against the other’s targets so as not to be traced back to them as the culprit. They set out to make themselves feel better and get back at those that hurt them, but both Drea and Elenor may have to reckon with the consequences of revenge and the people that inadvertently get hurt along the way.
“Do Revenge” is like “Clueless,” “Mean Girls” and “Cruel Intentions” all got together and made a mellenial/gen z love child. And I mean that as a compliment, as the film takes the best parts of all of these classic high school centric socialite romps and mashes them together in a really fun, twisted way. Robinson smartly crafts a collection of over the top, almost unbelievable scenarios as a means to subvert the teen black comedy genre, peppering the film with subtle commentaries about internet culture and modern day lingo. Most people get their critiques of things like safe spaces and therapy wrong, opting to demean them and misnomer the terms rather than embrace them but point out their flawed misinterpretations. Much like “Bodies, Bodies, Bodies,” “Do Revenge” fully embraces the lingo and value of those things but pokes fun at how many manipulate them to be something they are not. It is purposefully confrontational and silly, never taking itself too seriously even in its more serious moments which in turn actually makes them hit harder.
Despite being all about revenge and ruining peoples lives, “Do Revenge” never feels spiteful towards its subjects, even when it’s primarily breaking them down and critiquing their value. It goes for broke, and smartly injects wit and satire in the best of ways, and really captures the reality we all know but don’t like to say out loud: high school absolutely sucks. Even for the best of them, like Drea, the world with which teen culture creates and continues to shape can be absolutely hell, and Robinson never loses sight of that even when things escalate to the point of disbelief. “Do Revenge” is out there, but it never feels so out there that it gets away from its creator. She is in full control here, of both her story and her messaging, and offers up a generational satire that just might be one of the best of its kind in recent years.
It helps that everyone in “Do Revenge” understands the assignment. Camila Mendes shines as Drea, a cold hard bitch with a fierce exterior and vulnerable interior. Mendes is a star in the making, one who I hope gets far more work than her filmography shows. She is brilliant here, reminiscent of other “Teen Queens” like the late Brittany Murphy, Sarah Michelle Gellar (who cleverly appears in this film), and Rachel McAdams. I genuinely want Mendes to have a long and prosperous career, because she really does do some pretty incredible work here. “Do Revenge” attempts to paint each character in broad stereotypes of the modern age while also giving them depth beneath what’s written, and Mendes displays this balancing act beautifully and I want more of it. Likewise, Maya Hawke is equally good, doing a solid quirky outcast to rising socialite brilliantly, even adding some extra layers to her character that I won’t spoil here. It helps that she’s not just the daughter of Uma Thurman, but that she looks EXACTLY like her mother almost to the point of distraction. I’m not kidding, she is such a spitting image of Uma there are times in “Do Revenge” you think they’re doing some weird, unnecessary de-aging shtick.
But Hawke is also her own person, and brings an extreme likability to her character that most certainly defines her as a legitimate actress in her own right. “Do Revenge” is incredible gracious in its character development too, letting each character breath and become fully realized even within the confines of a satirical teen black comedy. It is one of the things that makes the film so much fun, and though it is heavily influenced by similar films in its genre, it is smart enough and interesting enough to stand out and stand up with them. Like her actors, Robinson fully commits to her vision and commentary here, not letting anyone or anything deter her from all the things she wants to accomplish with this story. It unfolds at a thrilling pace, and never stops being fun, funny and engaging.
Also, as a side note: please, for the love of god let Sophie Turner do more roles and cameos like this one in “Do Revenge.” She maybe has collectively 4 minutes of screen time, but again, Robinson’s choice to let her performers run rampant is exactly the kind of environment where Turner thrives. This is the best I’ve seen of her, and she proves she got comedic chops and satirical wit, and we are robbed of some truly great performances if we don’t pay attention and give her stuff like this to do.
As another side note, I’ve been seeing a lot of criticism for things that are irrelevant to the overall effectiveness of the story. Namely, the actual age vs the age of characters they portray, and the unrelatability of the characters. To the first point, I challenge you to find an actual teen comedy in the last 30 or 40 years that actually casts 17 year olds as 17 year olds. This is a really dumb thing to get hung up on, considering that “Do Revenge” does a better job in finding older women who look the part than most other attempts at it. You’re really going to look me in the eye and tell me you believe Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillipe, Selma Blair and again, Sarah Michelle Gellar are all preppy high school students. Or that ANYONE in the beloved “Mean Girls” look any younger than 25.
In regards to not being able to relate to the characters, well…I hate to tell you but that’s kind of the point. “Do Revenge” is explicit in its satire of internet culture and the narcissistic, toxic generation that is currently plaguing the kids today. The truth is, most iterations of this don’t fully understand it, and end up mocking it with the voice of “old man yells at cloud” mentality instead of embracing the very real aspects of a generation they don’t understand. Drea Torres is toxic and repulsive on purpose and by design, not by accident. We aren’t even suppose to like her until her world starts to crumble around her and the real Drea begins to show. If you’re questioning who the real Drea Torres is when she shows you all sides of her, then you’re unfortunately missing the entire point of “Do Revenge.” I’m saying you have to love it or that it’s for everybody. It’s not. But I am saying that you have to do better than “Gen Z high school girls, I don’t get it.”
“Do Revenge” is a surprisingly fun and funny black comedy that balances its satire and commentary with a thoughtful, fun to watch narrative. I was not expecting to enjoy this one as much as I did, but I am willing to put it in the line up of classics within its genre. It’s ambitious as hell, but never loses sight of what it wants to say and what space it wants to exist in. Expertly crafted and terrifically performed, “Do Revenge” is a hidden gem you didn’t know you needed but will most likely be solidified as a teen comedy classic.
Ya, let’s do revenge, baby!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
“Do Revenge” is currently available to watch on Netflix. You can watch the trailer below.