Do Revenge, a new Netflix high school revenge-swap comedy starring Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke, is rife with parallels to 90s teen films, from makeover schemes to coordinated clique clothing to house parties where popularity is gained and lost. Additionally, it draws inspiration from a book: Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. These inspirations include classic movies like 10 Things I Hate About You and Cruel Intentions.
The movie, which is largely inspired on the novel about murder swapping that Hitchcock adapted, centers on two students at a posh private school with a student body that includes some of Gen Z’s top stars. The mismatched protagonists Eleanor (Hawke), a moody new girl, and Drea (Mendes), a humiliated queen bee, create a secret alliance and agree to exact one other’s retribution during a meeting the summer before their final year. However, their goal is to reveal Drea’s golden-boy ex and exact revenge for Eleanor’s terrible coming out, not to kill him.
According to Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, the writer and director of the movie, Patricia Highsmith is high camp, so setting the book in this high-gloss, camp environment for teens felt very natural. In this environment that feels extremely candy-coated, saturated, and joyful, it was really about maintaining loyal to the delicacy of Strangers on a Train.
Highsmith is most known for penning The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Price of Salt, the latter of which was turned into the 2015 lesbian romance Carol. She is also noted for authoring Strangers on a Train.
She said, referring to herself and the movie’s wardrobe and production designers, “We stated we were constructing female universe.” Placing Patricia Highsmith in a world dominated by women is simply so much fun.
Robinson, whose filmography includes the titles Thor: Love and Thunder and Someone Great, drew inspiration from highly stylized classics like Clueless, Heathers, and Jawbreakers to create that world. The Do Revenge cast of stunning 20-somethings often wears form-fitting clothing in a variety of vibrant colors and transparent fabrics, or bubble gum-colored school uniforms. Even the pop music soundtrack and camera style, which include montages of student groups and overhead shots, pay homage to the main plotlines of the 90s teen genre.
Like many 90s leads, Drea’s rule over the school’s popular kids—who one character refers to as being as cunning as they are beautiful—comes to an end when she is humiliated in front of everyone during the movie’s beginning. Her lover Max (Austin Abrams of Euphoria fame), who has a much more influence over the wealthy student population than Drea, who is a scholarship student, is most likely to blame for the online leak of a naked film of her. Even the school’s headmaster, played by none other than Sarah Michelle Geller, is unable to support Drea after the traumatizing episode.
When she is friendless and in danger of losing her shot at Yale, Eleanor, a new transfer, enters the picture. Unlike Drea, Eleanor has experience being a social outcast. Eleanor recalls how one of their shared classmates accused her of being a predator when she came out as lesbian to the girl at camp during their first encounter, which included a humorous appearance by Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones). Together, driven by their shared traumas and dread of the upcoming school year, the two eventually come up with a scheme to exact revenge on one another while escaping punishment.
Robinson also mixes in several twists and turns typical of the film’s thriller roots, even though the ensuing scheme includes plenty of predictable moments, such as a makeover that puts Eleanor in with the popular kids and an awkward flirtation between Drea and her new best friend.
Asserting that making poor decisions is unavoidable when you’re young and trying to figure yourself out, Robinson said, “I wanted to build a story where everyone was the hero and everyone was also the villain.”
The morally dubious characters that Robinson and co-writer Celeste Ballard constructed to explore those topics are what attracted their stars, who are extremely familiar with what it takes to generate a teen success, in addition to Robinson’s clear enthusiasm for the project.
Surprisingly rarely do you hear someone express how important it is to them to make this movie in a way that actually helps you grasp it. You just genuinely want that. Hawke, who is most known for her work on Stranger Things, told NBC News that she too had a vision.
Regarding Mendes, the Riverdale actor, she remarked, “For me, I was, like, I’ve done teen movies.” Why does this one differ from others?
It differs in a myriad of ways, she continued. It’s so innovative and creative, and it also makes the most amazing nods to the past. Additionally, the film’s emotional depth is enhanced by the fact that it tells a truly lovely tale of getting over tragedy.
Mendes Drea feels as though the people she believed she could trust have deceived her, showing a greater concern for her precarious financial situation than she had expected. Robinson’s modern take on the LGBT adolescent plot and the subtext woven throughout her source sources is that Hawkes Eleanor is obsessed by the prospect of being perceived as a victimizer.
Of course, many of the 90s and 2000s films that I adore have queer undertones, and Patricia Highsmith’s work undoubtedly has queer undertones, but for me, it was about presenting a story that felt truthful to being young in the present. Therefore, Eleanor was always a queer character in this movie, according to Robinson.
She said that as she spoke with many young people today, she noticed how diverse and evolving their perspectives on queerness were. Eleanor’s narrative is about what happened after she was outed, not about her being outed, which is why I didn’t want it to be that.
Hawke, whose Stranger Things character Robin is also queer, found it appealing to transcend beyond a coming-out story.
Eleanor is given permission to have a story arc that has nothing to do with her sexuality from the start because she is already relatively at ease with it. This is unusual for women, whether of their own sexual inclinations or those of their characters, according to Hawke. Usually, the plots revolve around your sexuality in some way.
According to Robinson, the success of the movie depended on her sympathic relationship with both of her performers and their relationships with their characters. In order for Hawke and Mendes to agree to star, the filmmaker actually changed the site of the shoot to Atlanta. Her efforts were fruitful because of the chemistry between the two actors.
Mendes remarked on her initial chemistry with Hawke as saying, “It was crazy how instant it was.” She was an actor that I admired. I was familiar with her work because I watched Stranger Things, and when I learned that she was already involved, it further increased my desire to participate on the project.
We have terrific chemistry as humans, and I adore our chemistry on screen, Hawke affirmed.
She said, but another aspect of what makes actors actors is that they are people who are skilled at creating chemistry with others. Connecting with others is an aspect of the work. And while making a connection on-screen is a requirement of the work, sometimes you do make a real buddy and sometimes you don’t.