The 80s had “Heathers,” the 90s had “Clueless” and the 2000s had “Mean Girls.” These films defined their generations with their distinctive and sometimes unrealistic portrayal of teens of the time, becoming the blueprint for the high school romance genre.
For avid fans of these classics and teen media in general, Netflix’s “Do Revenge,” released on Sept. 16, is here: The movie pays homage to the coming-of-age genre while adapting it masterfully for a modern audience.
The movie has a simple premise: Drea Torres (Camila Mendes), Rosehill Country Day’s former “it girl,” and Eleanor Levetan (Maya Hawke), the new girl outcast, team up to carry out revenge against the two people in their school who have wronged them — Drea’s narcissistic ex, Max Broussard (Austin Abrams) and Eleanor’s first crush, Carrisa Jones (Ava Capri).
Yes, the movie is super cliche, but that’s part of its brilliance.
With elite schools, popular mean girls, fashion makeovers and, of course, the revenge plot, the movie is overflowing with typical tropes. But “Do Revenge” makes these cliches work because of its self-awareness; characters are seemingly cognizant that they are living in an unrealistic and exaggerated teen world.
The movie is certainly a bit cheesy, and the dialogue can sometimes feel a bit too much, but the film remains fresh and entertaining, successfully distinguishing itself from mountains of other teen movies. “Do Revenge” allows for an earnest and nostalgic watch where viewers can appreciate these classic tropes for what they are.
The film takes its absurdity one step further with over-the-top scenery, outfits and set design. Despite being set in Miami, the movie’s school uniforms are straight out of a New England Country Day school, uncannily reminiscent of “Clueless.”
Nearly every actor in the movie’s cast is famous from other roles in teen media – notably, Camilla Mendes from “Riverdale” and Maya Hawke from “Stranger Things.” The rest of the cast is studded with “Euphoria,” “Thirteen Reasons Why,” “Love, Victor,” “Outer Banks” and “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin” alums. And the film’s lesser-known cast also has experience in teen media — Talia Ryder, for example, is known for starring in the music video for Olivia Rodrigo’s “Deja Vu.”
“Do Revenge” also knows exactly how to reference popular culture without being overbearing. The soundtrack consists of popular hits from Olivia Rodrigo, Phoebe Bridgers and Billie Eilish. The movie also features some of the best LGBTQ+ representation seen in teen media today: Maya Hawke’s character, who is lesbian, has a fully developed romance that never feels dumbed down to fit the straight gaze.
Another reason that “Do Revenge” feels so fresh is because it’s able to portray the essence of Gen Z while not taking itself too seriously. Perhaps the most authentic way the film captures Gen Z is by not being afraid to make fun of some of the generation’s most emblematic tropes. For example, Max, Drea’s fake-woke ex, creates a club called “The Cis Heteronormative Men Championing Female-Identifying Students League” and Eleanor owns an emotional support pet lizard named Oscar Winner Olivia Colman. By poking fun at these Gen Z stereotypes, “Do Revenge” manages to stay grounded in its hilarity.
It’s unclear whether “Do Revenge” is going to get a sequel — or should get a sequel (the movie is pretty self-contained). No matter what is next for the film, “Do Revenge” should be held as an example of how to make teen films that are both enjoyable and don’t shy away from some of the disliked aspects of the genre. Although “Do Revenge” is heavily inspired by classic teen movies, it can set a good example for future genre flicks as a heartwarming and entertaining binge by including strong female friends and diversity.