What happens when you throw Gen Zs into a classic revenge plot? Netflix’s new teen drama, Do Revenge, gives us a fresh, yet unsatisfying look: It avoids predictable characterizations while still relying on tried-and-true dramedy tropes. The film enlists actors from a range of successful teen shows—Euphoria, Riverdale, Outer Banks, Stranger Things, and 13 Reasons Why—leaving each of their respective fanbases to converge around the film. Its massive success––topping Netflix’s streaming charts––is no surprise due to its acclaimed cast, contemporary soundtrack, and Gen Z pop culture relevance. The film both honours and pokes fun at Gen Z culture while taking inspiration from iconic teen films from the 90s and 00s. But these triumphs do not prevent the movie’s character development, costume design, and pacing from falling short.
The film follows queen bee Drea (Camila Mendes) after her boyfriend leaks her sex tape and she becomes a social outcast. Drea befriends the awkward new girl Eleanor (Maya Hawke), who is hesitant to enter the school’s social scene, haunted by a homophobic rumour started by her ex-crush. The girls agree to exact revenge on each other’s enemies by any means necessary. While the scheme for Eleanor’s vengeance is immediately successful, the girls struggle to bring down Max (Austin Abrams), Drea’s manipulative ex-boyfriend. The setback brings up larger issues within the girls’ partnership, revealing even deeper secrets and uncovering the movie’s true, unexpected conflict.
The premise of Do Revenge is enticing and unique because it relies on contemporary struggles created by the internet and social media to fuel the plot. While major conflicts in teen dramas such as Clueless, Mean Girls, and Heathers are often related to bullying and social status, the issues in Do Revenge surrounding homophobia and revenge porn have been scarcely addressed in teen dramas, making it more relatable and intriguing. Max serves as the film’s primary antagonist, twisting the humiliation and slut-shaming Drea faces into a campaign victimizing himself. This allows the film to comment on misogyny in a humorous and bite-sized portrayal of social justice.
The film’s eclectic music and costume design solidify it as a quintessential Gen Z flick. The soundtrack consists of a carefully curated playlist that includes Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, and other Gen Z staples. The soundtrack is one of the better-developed parts of the movie, with just enough songs to not oversaturate the story but to provide relevant and contemporary accompaniment to the plot.
In contrast, the costume design falls short. Pushing boundaries with its colourful, campy style, the clothing design is eye-catching, but fails to accurately portray modern teen style. This is especially evident with Drea, who––despite being a scholarship student who thrifts most of her clothes––manages to wear the same high-end, modern styles as her trust-funded peers.
Beyond the engaging plot, the movie fails to develop the characters in a way that makes them sympathetic to viewers. Both Drea and Eleanor’s characters disappoint as their flaws are candidly pointed out to the audience, but are not given enough attention or time to make their redemption arcs believable. Mean Girls (2004), which shares tone and plot points with Do Revenge, subverts this well by showing both the main character and her bully facing the consequences of their actions with the help of a well-timed school bus. Conversely, Do Revenge lacks conviction because of Drea and Eleanor’s unconvincing character developments. While the girls do seek to apologize to their new love interests, these resolutions are too rushed to feel compelling. Drea’s interest in her new boyfriend does not seem genuine due to both a lack of chemistry and predictable writing. Eleanor’s eventual girlfriend is barely seen, with their relationship not even getting addressed until the credit scene.
Ultimately, Do Revenge is a solid entry into the teen film genre thanks to its acclaimed cast and exciting plot. It lacks, however, the character development and thematic wit of its predecessors like Clueless, which inhibits it from becoming a modern classic. The cast and provocative plot are undoubtedly the most thrilling parts of the movie, but the writing serves up a revenge that just isn’t cold enough.
Do Revenge is now streaming on Netflix.