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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.