Released: 16th September
Seen: 25th September
Back in the 90s, there was this strange but glorious trend going on with teen comedies where they would take a classic work and throw it into a high school. The Taming of the Shrew would turn into 10 Things I Hate About You, Dangerous Liaisons turned into Cruel Intentions and Pygmalion became She’s All That just to name a few of the more well-known ones that became high points for that 90s teen movie craze that a lot of people look back on with some genuine fondness. There’s enough fondness that now the people who grew up on that genre of film are getting to have their own chance to revive it and while this can sometimes lead to some bland uninteresting retreads like He’s All That, other times it can create glorious pieces of joyful throwback fun like Do Revenge.
Do Revenge, in the grand tradition of this style of movie, is heavily inspired by the classic Alfred Hitchcock film, Strangers on a Train. In this version, we follow Drea (Camila Mendes), a student who is only at a prestigious school thanks to a scholarship that she keeps hidden from everyone. She’s managed to work her way into the top echelon of the popular kids where she resides as queen bee alongside her boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams). However, when a sex tape of Drea and Max is leaked, presumably by Max, Drea is livid and punches him which puts her scholarship in jeopardy meaning she has no way of actually getting her desired revenge… until she meets Elanor (Maya Hawke).
Elanor is a new transfer student who will soon be starting her senior year at Drea’s school, a school that also has Carissa (Ava Capri) who Elanor went to summer camp with. Turns out Carissa not only outed Elanor but spread a rumour that Elanor forced herself on Carissa, turning Elanor into a social pariah. Now Elanor also would like some revenge but knows it would be obvious if she got it herself. That’s when Elanor and Drea hatch the brilliant plan to get revenge for each other, Drea will do whatever she can to secretly destroy Carissa’s life while Elanor will work on destroying Max. It’s a foolproof plan, provided there aren’t any more secrets going on around this school.
If you even vaguely remember the 90s-era high school films that were mentioned earlier then you will have the most intense nostalgia hit possible with Do Revenge because it looks like it would blend in perfectly with the high school dramedies that defined that era of film. While there are some things that are clearly updated for a more modern audience (like the acknowledgement of queer people and a cast that contains more than one person of colour) it is lovingly taking on so many of the tropes of the genre that have been deemed cliche for about 20 years now, except it does those cliches so well that you just roll with them or it will gloriously call them out because the film is aware of its own influences.
In a post Not Another Teen Movie world, most of the tropes used here shouldn’t work as well as they do because most of the audience has now seen the absurdity of them but Do Revenge does them with enough loving sincerity that it gets away with them. We’ve seen the makeover scene where a conventionally attractive girl is given a haircut and has her glasses removed a thousand times, Do Revenge knows this and just quickly gets past it while still having fun. The big college party scene where something horrible is revealed is mockable, but Do Revenge builds up to it so carefully that sure enough, it works. Every little thing that you expect out of this genre of film is done here so well that even if you’ve seen every film that inspired it, it somehow still feels fresh.
The teens that Do Revenge focuses on are more in line with the Cruel Intentions brand of teenager, meaning those teens who have a lot of sex and do coke off of other classmates. This really helps push the comedy into more adult areas, particularly when there are just scenes of the main cast high off their ass on mushrooms or proclaiming that they might have sex with the most popular guy in school (a scene that feels out of the 90s but has the more modern understanding of sexuality) and those more adult scenarios really help keep the stakes of the film high enough to work.
Even while all of this subject material is heightened quite a bit in order to be funny, the performances are all grounded about as close to reality as you can get, with Camilla and Maya managing to keep the film moving at a really good pace. Do Revenge might be two hours long but it certainly doesn’t feel it, it rockets by with some quality performances to make it work and even allows for some of the side characters to have a scene-stealing moment or two (special props go to Sophie Turner who has a total of two scenes as a cocaine-addicted friend of our main character and every line of dialogue she has is golden). It never feels like there’s a lull in the film, its energy is undeniable and makes for a fairly easy viewing experience.
Do Revenge belongs up there with the greats of the genre like 10 Things I Hate About You and Clueless, a brilliant modernisation of a classic story that takes the very adult concepts and fits them easily into a mould that would be easily accessible to any teenager. It’s a masterclass in how to take a classic work as inspiration and make it feel fresh. A delightful experience from start to finish, anyone who grew up in the 90s will have some serious fondness for this clever little throwback.