Alfred Hitchcock’s influence evident in Netflix’s dark teen comedy Revenge. It was inspired by his 1951 horror film Strangers on a trainwas in turn inspired by a novel by Talented Mr. Ripley writer Patricia Highsmith. But instead of focusing on a zigzag murder plot, Revenge revolves around a plot to kill the social status of two members of It Crowd.
It fits the bill of dark comedies about the cruelty of teenage girls – think Heaters or Bad girls. Director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (co-screenwriter of Thor: Love and Thundermaker Sweet / vicious) weaves a sharp 2022 update of the genre. A few romantic subplots slow down the film’s midpoint, but by the end, the film regains momentum and pulls together to a happy ending.
[Ed. note: This review contains setup spoilers for Do Revenge.]
Revenge Follows Drea (Camila Mendes), formerly the most popular girl in school, until her fame grows – not only because ex-boyfriend Max released her sex tape, but also because she later punches her in the face. his face. Drea attends her exclusive Miami prep school on a scholarship, while her ex (Austin Abrams) comes from a wealthy family. He has more social capital than her, so he can turn his friends and others in school against her, claiming that a video from his phone has been leaked and she attacked him for no reason. Drea just wanted to grit her teeth and get through her senior year, but that changed when she met transfer student Eleanor (Maya Hawke).
Years ago, Eleanor made headlines on social media when her lover Carissa (Ava Capri) spread rumors that Eleanor had held her down and forcibly kissed her. After going to the same school as Carissa, Eleanor was scared to see her again. After an emotional moment in the bathroom, Eleanor and Drea bond emotionally with their wrongdoers and devise a plan of revenge – but with one important caveat. The two decide to swap revenge goals: Drea will take down Carissa, while Eleanor will infiltrate Max’s group of friends for ultimate revenge.
Like the other movies in the bad girl high school division, Revenge focuses on complex social conspiracies and pervasive evil factions. But it’s not derivative or cliche: Instead, it’s the natural evolution of this kind of movie for 2022. Some parts of high school are constant, but teen culture is evolving rapidly. fast, so teen movies – especially those that adapt or pay homage to people who are older than material – at risk of feeling out of date. Revenge dodge that curse because of the way Robinson and co-writer Celeste Ballard intelligently update certain plot points.
For one thing, Max is a villain for 2022 – a handsome, rich white guy who uses public awakening to conceal his true motives. And as a privileged young man, Max is essentially untouchable. But that just means that Drea and Eleanor have to devise an even more elaborate plan to take him down – and it makes it easier for them to take root at first.
But as their actions increase, their obsession grows larger. Hawke and Mendes did a great job of never giving the audience a clear person to do original. At first, their friendship seems inspired, as they unite against those who have wronged them. But then it becomes one-sided and malicious. And then it transforms into something completely different.
It’s a hell of a ride, all done in soft pastels, influencer-worthy. Part of the reason why I like the movie Heaters and Bad girls become iconic is due to their powerful visual palette, which aligns with the idealized teenage conventions of their respective eras. Revenge continuing the trend, updating the look and feel of the movie for those familiar with the perfectly calibrated aesthetic that fits under social hashtags, whether it’s the “Instagram witch” or #glamgirl.
When the movie focuses on revenge plots, or Eleanor and Drea’s increasingly toxic relationship, it’s sharp and tight. But midway through, a couple of romantic B lots begin to take center stage. Drea has an affair with a friend of Carissa’s, the renegade artist Russ (Rish Shah), while Eleanor flirts with Max’s sister Gabbi (Talia Ryder). While some of those scenes are sweet, none of these relationships make Eleanor or Drea any more empathetic or despicable. They seem to exist with a sense that teen movies need a compulsive romance and nothing more. In the end, they pulled the film out and slowed it down.
At the end, however, the movie switches back to Eleanor and Drea – and better. A series of twists pull them together, and they play together in interesting ways. At some point, the movie looks like it’s going to become a moral statement about the dangers of revenge, especially when Drea’s college plans turn jeopardy. But Robinson and Ballard cleverly avoid those pitfalls, proving they understand what audiences of these types of movies really want: the visceral thrill of watching wicked teenage girls try to do their best to get what they want, while navigating the complex relationships they form with each other. Without spoiling too much, Eleanor and Drea got both what they wanted and what they deserved. It’s a satisfying conclusion that doesn’t punish or blackmail them. Just ignore the cheesy endings where they engage their future love interests.
Revenge premieres on Netflix on September 16.