Do Revenge - Jennifer Kaytin Robinson - Netflix - Maya Hawke
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by Selina Lee Featured Film Streaming Scene

Do Revenge — Jennifer Kaytin Robinson

September 14, 2022

Do Revenge is over-the-top but toothless, sorely lacking any genuine bite and trading in paper-thin social commentary.

Director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (Someone Great) would have us believe that all teenage girls are psychopaths, just as, almost a quarter of a century ago, Sofia Coppola dreamily convinced us that there’s no creature on earth more depressed than a thirteen year-old girl. Or demonic, per Jennifer’s Body, or conniving, per Cruel Intentions, or… the list goes on. Maybe the best part of being a teenage girl is the chameleonic freedom it affords, for those who see in themselves the potential for something darker. 

Sadly, in Robinson’s newest feature film, Do Revenge, this darkness (or “Glennergy,” a nod to that paragon of unhinged female desire, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction) is shellacked with an impenetrable veneer of saccharine maximalism. Between the Bacchanalian parties, paper-thin social commentary, and overall “Rich Kids of Instagram” vibe, the film quickly loses any momentum promised by its Hitchcockian plotline. The result is a teen romp that’s occasionally fun but mostly uneven, as Robinson and screenwriter Celeste Ballard bog down an otherwise straightforward story with twists, double-crossings, and heavy-handed in-jokes that ring with the forced authenticity of a corporate TikTok account. 

It’s a tale as old as time: It-girl scholarship student Drea Torres (Camilla Mendes) is duped by her rich asshole boyfriend Max (Euphoria’s Austin Abrams) into sending him a risqué video, which inevitably gets leaked to the entire student body of their posh private school. Adding insult to injury, Max starts dating her former best friend, Tara (Alisha Boe). Throughout, Drea’s less-than status is conveyed by the fact that she once wore a thrifted dress to a party and that her mother is a nurse. With Drea’s social life in tatters, enter Eleanor (Maya Hawke, the spitting image of mom Uma Thurman), who occupies the “eccentric rich kid” archetype by dint of an emotional support pet lizard. She’s burning for her own revenge against Carissa (Ava Capri), a classmate who spread vicious rumors about her in middle school. Before long, their “you show me yours, I’ll show you mine” trauma swap escalates into a revenge plan that, after much fanfare and planning (including dosing the entire senior class with magic mushrooms), lands with a resounding thud. 

Until now, things are silly but straightforward; the PR rehabilitation of Max’s reputation from serial cheater to ethical non-monogamist is genuinely clever. But in the film’s second half, things go a little haywire. Before long, Drea starts exhibiting some serious Glennergy of her own, while Eleanor steps into the now-empty role of Revenge Mommy with gusto, going so far as to hit Drea with her car (“It was a love tap!”). The machinations grind on. 

At nearly two hours, the film is way too long and sets up far too many glaring plot holes and logical fallacies. Why does Tara continue dating Max after his sordid DMs are exposed? Why is Max’s sister Gabbi (Talia Ryder) the only one who knows he leaked the video? And why didn’t she defend Drea when the school’s victim-blaming machine cranked into overdrive? For all of Eleanor’s bravado about how “everyone is gay,” way too many characters persist in obsesssing over a dude who’s such a caricature of straight male privilege that he starts the appropriately ridiculous “Cis Hereto Men Championing Female-Identifying Students League.” And when the long-awaited revenge is finally done, it barely registers. Like Rose Hill’s pastel uniforms, Do Revenge is over-the-top but toothless, sorely lacking the genuine bite of that holy grail of vengeful teen outsiders, Heathers. Instead, this dish is served lukewarm at best. To quote Gen Z, make it make sense.