Do Revenge is a Netflix teen dark comedy set in high school that takes inspiration from some of the most iconic films within its genres, Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Strangers on a Train’ (1951) and Mean Girls (2004).
Do Revenge is directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, who co-wrote the screenplay alongside Celeste Ballard. The film follows high school outcasts Drea Torres (Camilla Mendes) and Eleanor Levetan (Maya Hawke) as they plan to get revenge on the people responsible for their misery.
The film borrows elements from all sorts of teen high school flicks but the most obvious standout is Mean Girls while the plot is a modernised take on a story originally explored by Alfred Hitchock in 1951 and then once again by Danny Devito in 1987.
The absorbing premise
In Strangers on a Train, Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) is a psychologically impaired man who offers to kill Guy Haines’ (Farley Granger) troublesome wife in exchange for Guy killing his domineering father. He reasons that since they aren’t connected in any way, there’s no obvious evidence behind the crime.
Throw Momma from the Train (1987) decided to add in the comedy element with Danny Devito and Billy Crystal almost going through with the murders but failing miserably. Devito even directly refers to the Hitchcock film within his movie.
Do Revenge adapts the premise appropriately for a modern high school setting with two young girls simply getting back at people who spread rumours or leaked intimate videos about them, something that is sadly prevalent in the real world.
There are moments where Hawke and Mendes comment about actually killing their targets but this is tastefully played for laughs thanks to a great script. Instead, they just aim to expose their targets’ true natures and humiliate them in front of everyone.
The relatable teen aspect
High school is one of the most formative aspects of a teenager’s life and while things have certainly progressed over the years, there are still some experiences that everyone can attest to.
Forming cliques based on your area of interest is always exaggerated on screen but that behaviour definitely exists in the public. High school is also a time for significant emotional growth and beginning the long and winding journey of figuring out one’s identity.
This is where Do Revenge also resembles the iconic teen flick, Mean Girls. In Mean Girls, Cady (Lindsay Lohan) has her first taste of high school, joins the plastics and behaves like an entitled snob and then tries to publicly ruin the reputation of Regina George (Rachel McAdams) before everyone learns a lesson in humility.
Do Revenge exhibits much of the same while adding unique twists of their own. Almost every student at Rosehill is a wealthy entitled snob with their own eccentricities. Drea comes from a humble background but she transforms herself to fit in with the rest and this makes her oblivious to the toxic person that she’s become and always was.
Eleanor appears to be the unassuming girl who has been shunned by her peers but even she turns out to be hiding her true motivations and eventually realizes the truly important things in life.
The captivating characters
In the Hitchcock and Devito adaptations, there is one clear instigator while the other is more of an unwilling participant in the ordeal. In Do Revenge, both the leads get a chance in the spotlight as the “crazy one”.
At first, it is Drea who is so focused on getting back at Max that she loses focus on her grades and extra-curricular activities which costs her a spot at Yale which is her only goal in life up until that point.
However, once Eleanor’s true identity as ‘Nosy Nora’ is revealed it is she who appears unhinged and lets her anger consume her. She succeeds in ruining Drea’s life but towards the end, literally takes a look at herself in the mirror and questions whether she’s proud of her actions or not.
Similarly, by the end of the film, they both realize that their hatred towards each other is futile and they make up. This rush nature of their reconciliation can be considered one of the few criticisms of Do Revenge as it doesn’t allow the situation to breathe.