Netflix’s ‘Do Revenge’ Puts an Overtly Weird Version of Gen Z into a Classic, Dark Thriller

Netflix’s ‘Do Revenge’ Puts an Overtly Weird Version of Gen Z into a Classic, Dark Thriller

“Do Revenge,” Netflix’s new high school revenge swap drama starring Maya Hawke and Camilla Mendes, is a minefield of ’90s teen movie references — from coordinating clothing cliques to makeover schemes and parties. at home where popularity is made and lost. And just like her inspirations, which include films par excellence like “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Cruel Intentions”, it even has its roots in a work of literature: “Strangers on a Train”, by Patricia Highsmith.

The film, loosely based on Hitchcock’s adapted novel about exchange murder, centers on two participants at a wealthy private school inhabited by some of Generation Z’s brightest stars. The mismatched protagonists – the new girl, Eleanor (Hawke), and the disgraced queen bee, Drea (Mendes) – unite during a clandestine meeting the summer before their senior year and form a pact to enact revenge on each other. Though, instead of murder, they plan to expose Drea’s former fake gold boy and get revenge for Eleanor’s traumatic revelation.

“Patricia Highsmith It is high camp, so it was very intuitive to take [the novel] and put it in this high-gloss teen camp environment,” the film’s writer and director, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, told NBC News. “It was really about staying true to the delight of ‘Strangers on a Train’, within this world that feels really candy coated, saturated and fun.”

In addition to “Strangers on a Train,” Highsmith is perhaps best known for writing “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “The Price of Salt,” the latter of which was adapted into the 2015 lesbian novel “Carol.”

“We said we were creating a ‘female world,’” she added, referring to herself and the film’s costume designers and production designers. “There’s something so fun about putting Patricia Highsmith in the ‘girl world’.”

To create that world, Robinson, whose film credits include “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Someone Great,” borrowed highly stylized classics like “Clueless,” “Heathers” and “Jawbreakers.” Costume-wise, “Do Revenge”’s cast of gorgeous 20-somethings are usually dressed in bubblegum-colored school uniforms or tight-fitting outfits in a variety of bright hues and sheer fabrics. And even the soundtrack of pop songs and camera work, which includes montages of school cliques and aerial shots, pay homage to the ’90s teen genre — as well as its core stories..

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Like many ’90s protagonists, Drea’s reign over the popular school kids — who one character describes as being “as calculated as they are beautiful,” riffing on a line from 1999’s “Cruel Intentions.” – comes to an end when she is publicly humiliated during the opening of the film. A nude video of her has leaked online and the most likely culprit is her boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams of “Euphoria” fame), who wields significantly more power over the privileged student body than Drea, who attends school on a scholarship. . After the scar incident, not even the school principal, played by none other than Sarah Michelle Geller, is willing to side with Drea.

That’s when, friendless and in danger of losing her chance at Yale, she meets a new transfer, Eleanor, who, unlike Drea, is no stranger to being a social outcast. During their first date, which includes an amusing cameo from Sophie Turner (“Game of Thrones”), Eleanor describes how one of her classmates accused her of being a predator when she came out as queer to the girl at camp. Bound by their respective traumas and dread about the upcoming school year, the two end up hatching a plan to “get revenge” on each other. and run away from it.

While the plot that follows involves plenty of predictable moments, from a makeover that puts Eleanor with the popular kids to an awkward romance between Drea and her target’s best friend, Robinson also builds some twists befitting the film’s suspenseful roots.

“I wanted to make a story where everyone was the hero and everyone was the villain,” Robinson said, adding that he wanted to see how inevitable bad choices are when you are young and discovering yourself.

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Aside from Robinson’s obvious passion for the project, the morally questionable characters she and co-writer Celeste Ballard created to explore these themes are what attracted her stars, who are all too familiar with what it takes to make a teen hit. .

Image: Do Revenge director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson on the set of “Do Revenge”. Kim Sims/Netflix

“It’s surprisingly rare that you hear from someone who really makes you understand how much it means to them to make this movie. That’s all you really want…. and a vision,” Hawke, who is best known for her role on “Stranger Things,” told NBC News.

As for Mendes, who starred in “Riverdale,” she said, “For me, I was like, ‘I did teen movies. Why is this one different?’”

“It’s different in a million ways,” she added. “It’s so fresh and original and it also has all these amazing nostalgic references. And on top of that, the emotional depth of the movie — it’s a very beautiful story about healing your trauma.”

For Drea de Mendes, this trauma is being betrayed by the people she thought she could trust, who care more about her relatively limited means than she realized. Meanwhile, Hawke’s Eleanor is haunted by the idea of ​​being seen as a victimizer, which is Robinson’s contemporary take on the queer teen story and the subtext that runs through its source materials.

“Of course, there are queer tones in a lot of the 90s and 2000s movies that I really love, and obviously there are queer tones in Patricia Highsmith’s writing, but for me, it was about telling a story that felt real young today. So there was never a version of this movie where Eleanor wasn’t a queer character,” Robinson said.

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“As I speak to many young people today, their relationships with homosexuality are so different and so evolved,” he added. “So I didn’t want Eleanor’s story to be about her being exposed; is what happened when she was exposed.”

The choice to go beyond a revelation story appealed to Hawke, whose “Stranger Things” character Robin is also queer.

“From the first moment, Eleanor is quite comfortable with her sexuality and therefore is given license to have a story arc that has nothing to do with her sexuality – which, for women, no matter what their sexual preference or your character’s preferences, it’s rare,” Hawke said. “Usually the stories depend on their sexuality in one way or another.”

For Robinson, the sympathetic relationship she had with her two stars, and they with their characters, was essential to the film’s success. In fact, the director moved the filming location to Atlanta so Hawke and Mendes could sign. And given the chemistry between the two actors, his effort paid off.

It was crazy how instantaneous it was,” Mendes said, referring to his early chemistry with Hawke. “I admired her as an actress. I watched ‘Stranger Things’ so I knew her work, and when I knew she was already on, it made me want to be a part of the project even more.”

Hawke agreed, saying, “We have great chemistry as people, and I love our onscreen chemistry.”

“But also part of what makes actors actors is that they are people who are good at having chemistry with people,” she added. “That’s part of the job: connecting with people. And sometimes you make a real friend, sometimes you don’t, but the screen connection is part of the job.”

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