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‘Do Revenge’: A dish best served lukewarm

Netflix’s new movie “Do Revenge” intrigued me from its announcement: a plot inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train,” but with a high school setting. Netflix advertised its similarities to other high school classics such as “Clueless,” a personal favorite of mine, so I came into the movie with cautious anticipation. The film boasts a who’s who of young adult TV stars, with Camilla Mendes of “Riverdale” as a former it girl in her senior year of high school and Maya Hawke from “Stranger Things” as a transfer student with a troubled past and a bone to pick, alongside supporting actors from the shows “13 Reasons Why,” “Euphoria” and “Outer Banks.”

Meeting before their senior year, Drea (Mendes) and Eleanor (Hawke) find themselves both seeking revenge on their classmates for personal reasons: Drea’s boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams, “Euphoria”) ruined her reputation and Eleanor’s former friend Carissa had accused her of assault. While the movie’s plot follows fairly standard beats, the performances truly make the film, especially Hawke’s portrayal of Eleanor. At the film’s start, I felt her character was very similar to Hawke’s Robin in “Stranger Things,” and I was worried she had been typecast as the weird girl. I was pleased to see Eleanor have deeper complexity and motivations than the film originally reveals. Hawke’s performance is easily the best part of the film, especially in the moments leading up to the climax. This is not to say that Drea is not also compelling, as Mendes plays the character in such a way that you can’t help but feel bad for her despite her callous, almost narcissistic behavior. 

These performances elevate the film’s writing, which is not bad, but basic. Nothing in the story truly stood out; this is simply a normal teen movie. That is, until the third act twist. The twist reframes the whole movie and raises the tension and stakes for the rest of the runtime. The events following the twist are not the most exciting, but the performances by Hawke, Mendes and Abrams maintain the film’s forward momentum. The style of the film, however, is certainly impressive, whether it be the costume design or shot composition. The film was never boring to look at, as there was always something on screen grabbing my attention.

I appreciate the homages and references in the film, but at times I felt the movie relied too heavily on its influences, most notably “Clueless.” Scenes such as the tour of the cliques, Eleanor’s makeover and the use of the song “Kids in America” all mirror the source too closely. The toxic, borderline romantic infatuation shared between the protagonists harkens back to the dark comedy “Heathers,” but “Do Revenge” doesn’t share its big sister’s captivating cynicism.  Yes, this film has its own merits, but I feel the movie relies on the style of these classics too much to allow itself to form an identity of its own.

On paper, I should like “Do Revenge.” It takes a lot stylistically from movies I love and features a promising plot. Instead, the film neither soars nor falls flat. It is a nice, enjoyable watch, but won’t leave you with much after it ends. The film is not unwatchable by any standard — it just feels like, with its performances and stylistic flair, it could have accomplished so much more.

Title: “Do Revenge”

Starring: Camila Mendes, Maya Hawke, Austin Abrams

Director: Jennifer Kaitlyn Robinson

If you liked: “Clueless,” “Heathers,” “Mean Girls”

Where to watch: Netflix

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5

Contact Andy Ottone at aottone@nd.edu.

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‘The Girlfriend That Didn’t Exist’: The story behind the legend

If you’re like me, you remember the 2013 BCS National Championship Game between Notre Dame and Alabama as the cementation of the SEC’s dominance over college football since the turn of the millennium. That season was the last time Notre Dame competed for a national title and the last time the team featured a Heisman Trophy finalist. Central to the mythos of the Fighting Irish’s undefeated campaign was the perseverance of said finalist, Manti Te’o, following the death of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day in the middle of the season. In the aftermath of the title defeat, a bizarre truth emerged which grasped the sports world by storm: Te’o’s girlfriend was not a real person. Netflix’s two-part documentary released in August, “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist,” narrates the story of the highest-profile catfishing scheme of all time.

The documentary appeals to Fighting Irish die-hard fans and those uninclined to athletics alike. Get ready to travel back in time to early 2010s social media, when Facebook, Myspace and Xanga were still in vogue. Enjoy news anchors, congresswomen and Notre Dame leadership sounding like fools. Watch Te’o yawn as he walks out of O’Neill Hall, possibly on his way to SDH for some coffee. See the Hawaiian flag in his dorm room. Listen to the birds calling out down by Saint Mary’s Lake as you flash to Carroll Hall’s game day banner. Shiver at the sound of “Notre Dame, Our Mother” as light flickers back at you off a snowy Golden Dome. Sit back and enjoy a millennial’s “Rudy.” Observer a colorful “Knute Rockne, All American.”

The two-hour saga is as good as the final word we’re ever going to get on the Te’o incident. Any suspicions concerning the possibility of an active role by Te’o in the hoax are carefully dispelled in interviews with Te’o’s friends, family and the linebacker himself. The film reveals that the catfisher who masqueraded as Lennay Kekua, the fictional girlfriend, has since come out as a transgender woman, Naya Tuiasosopo.

Though it does not completely dispel the suspicion that Te’o knew at some level that he was interacting with a non-existent human being, the film does an excellent job of showing how Te’o might have fallen for the con. Several voicemails from Kekua to Te’o are played back and the voice sounds assuredly female. Tuiasosopo built an elaborate network around the Kekua Facebook account consisting of sham family members and friends, so potential male crushes would trust she was truly a person. Still, it is quite questionable that Te’o never grew suspicious when Kekua spurned all requests to meet in person or over FaceTime. I suppose one could get away with technological excuses such as claiming to have a cracked screen or poor connection in 2012, but that does not change the fact that Te’o told the entire world he had a girlfriend having never once looked upon her live, moving face.

The best parts of the film reveal the numerous character similarities between Te’o and Tuiasosopo. Both hailed from large Polynesian families who valued football. Tuiasosopo played quarterback in high school and her father was a signal-caller at USC. Both Te’o and Tuiasosopo belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their daily conversations revolved around religion and worship. Behind the veil of the fake Facebook profile, this was a real relationship. No doubt Te’o would have been devastated after hearing of Kekua’s death only a few short hours after being informed of his grandmother’s death. It was genuine emotion driving Te’o on the field during the 2012 football season. Tuiasosopo played an undisputed, behind-the-scenes part in leading the Fighting Irish to their last National Championship. As Notre Dame football begins a new era under head coach Marcus Freeman, perhaps the team will write a new mythical chapter in the history of Notre Dame football. Will it involve the faked death of the fabricated girlfriend of the team’s premier player? Probably not.

Title: “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist”

Directors: Tony Vainuku and Ryan Duffy

Starring: Manti Te’o

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

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‘The Sandman’: Dreams never really die

The first reviews I saw of Netflix’s “The Sandman” were vitriolic complaints that the series had “too many gay people.” Naturally, that made me want to watch it even more.

The original comics series by Neil Gaiman ran from 1989 to 1996 and was highly praised by critics and fans alike. This long-awaited TV adaptation remains highly faithful to the original comics while still updating the material for 2022 with its richly diverse cast. A lot of representation in today’s mainstream media feels tacked on for diversity brownie points (looking at you, Disney). Here, however, the inclusion of more POC and LGBTQ+ characters feels more thoughtful, like the creators were making an actual effort to improve on the ‘90s comics’ representation.

“The Sandman” follows Dream, the anthropomorphic personification of, well, dreams. While being imprisoned by a wizard for over a century, his realm of the Dreaming fell to ruin, which meant devastating consequences for the human world. After escaping his captivity, Dream must restore his kingdom and reassert his power as the King of Dreams. 

Although the show’s fidelity to its source material is impressive, it is also to the show’s detriment. The pacing of this show dragged a lot in places. An entire episode could pass in which neither the plot nor the characters developed much, a result of hewing a bit too closely to the comics instead of adapting them to the medium of TV. Additionally, the quality of this season’s arcs was uneven, with the first arc of the season being stronger than the second. This caused the show to drag towards the end of the season. Luckily, the Corinthian, the main villain, was entertaining enough to maintain interest in the overall story.

What the show lacks in good pacing it makes up for with its characters and performances. Dream is an Endless, an extremely powerful being who has existed for thousands of years. Therefore, capturing his inhuman nature is paramount to his characterization, and Tom Sturridge perfectly embodies it. Sturridge conveys the gravity of Dream’s power while also contrasting it with Dream’s more awkward, human moments. One example of these more mortal episodes is when Dream tries to smile at a shop owner after his older sister, Death, yells at him to be more social. The shop owner just looks weirded out by Dream, and it’s a very endearing moment for the character. Dream also looks like he’s on the verge of tears basically all the time, which is an acting choice that goes along perfectly with his all-black emo fit and eyeliner. Although Sturridge’s performance as Dream carries this show, every single actor delivers an on-point performance. Some standouts are Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death and Boyd Holbrook as the Corinthian. 

Along with the spectacular cast, the visuals of the show are stunning. Although there’s a heavy use of CGI to convey the magic, especially in Dream’s realm, everything looks like it exists in the world of the show. There are some moments where some of the magic creatures look a little too fake, but the computer effects in this show are better than anything in the recent Marvel movies and TV shows. “The Sandman” also seems to be shot with a lens that slightly distorts the image so the perspective seems a bit off. This gives the entire show a more dreamlike and unreal quality.

While ‘The Sandman’ may be slow in places, the strength of the performances and visuals carry the show’s unique premise of dreams made real.

Show: “The Sandman”

Starring: Tom Sturridge, Boyd Holbrook, Patton Oswalt

Favorite episodes: “The Sound of Her Wings,” “Dream of a Thousand Cats/Calliope”

If you like: “The Sandman’ comics, “Good Omens”

Where to watch: Netflix

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

Christine Hilario


Contact Christine at chilario@nd.edu