Netflix’s Do Revenge Is An Intoxicatingly Fun Tribute To 90s Teen Movies

What is the line between tribute and derivative?

Can a movie stand alone if the main reason it’s so much fun is because it reminds you of other movies you’ve loved?

That’s the question that lingers take revengea Netflix teen movie starring Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke.

Directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (Thor: Love and Thunder) and co-written by her and Celeste Ballard, take revenge is based on the many, many teen movies that preceded it, most notably from the 1990s.

It’s a movie made by someone who clearly loves the movies she grew up with, and that sense of fun playing in the same sandbox is evident all the time. It’s like Robinson whispers, “Can you believe I’m allowed to do this?”. That enthusiasm is contagious and easily carried away.

From the casting of Sarah Michelle Gellar as headmaster to the costume references of Romy and Michele’s High SchoolMeeting, take revenge is an avalanche of pastiche. It has the tone of the bitier Jawbreaker or the underrated comedy Mandy Moore/Jena Malone Stored!mixed with the visual palette of ignorant and Alfred Hitchcock’s plot mechanism Strangers on the train.

The story revolves around Drea (Mendes), an impossibly beautiful and impossibly popular college student in Miami. She may come from a poor family, but she made it – she’s a top student, dates the most privileged boy in school, and was even featured in a Teen Vogue list.

But that collapses when a sex tape of her and Max (Austin Abrams) is leaked to the entire school. She knows Max did it, but as is often the case when you’re the intersection of economically disadvantaged, female and cultural minority, Drea is the one who pays the price.

At a tennis camp where she works in the summer, she meets Eleanor (Hawke), a soon-to-be graduate student with her tale of the grief of having to be pulled out of the closet by a high school friend named Carissa (Ava Capri).

Drea and Eleanor have a light bulb moment when they realize they can carry out each other’s revenge plans – keeping their hands clean and tasting that sweet, sweet revenge.

It’s a simple and elegant plan – and we can thank that mistress with criminal intent, Patricia Highsmith, for it, it’s her book that Hitchcock adapted. A high school environment is also the perfect setting for it – a place of heightened, uncontrolled emotions and a propensity for performative cartoon villainy.

take revenge‘s story is cheeky and funny. It largely works to entertain, even if it’s uneven – it starts out shaky and almost completely loses itself by the end before sticking to the overflow.

There are some inconsistent character choices that go unresolved, but it’s not a deal breaker – and they stem from a plot twist that’s as awkward as it is delightful.

Robinson swings enough poms-poms that what’s distracted really does feel like love. How do you argue with a movie where there is a croquet game, a la heatheror which has a building called Horowitz Hall?

If you love that era of teen movies — and Easter eggs pointing to them — as much as Robinson, take revenge can be intoxicatingly fun.

And there’s nothing that encapsulates it quite as well as the soundtrack. Woven between the use of contemporary artists such as Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish and Phoebe Bridgers is a setlist of 90s bangers.

Music is a shortcut in evoking a specific time and atmosphere, but damn if it’s ineffective. Do you want to immediately draw on the loose, optimistic late nineties? Shoot a little Third-Eye Blind or The Cranberries.

Why not be the first movie in years to crank up Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” or call back to cruel intentions with Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You”? And there is a specific cruel intentions visual reference when driving off in a vintage convertible while the camera takes a wide shot.

take revenge is undoubtedly a nostalgic punch, but pop culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Everything that is released is in conversation with what came before and if take revenge can effectively weaponize the past to increase its creds, and then all the power to it. You will not be bored.

take revenge won’t be as iconic as the movies he loves. We probably won’t be talking about it in a decade or two or three like we do 10 things I hate about you, ignorant or mean girls but right now there is a lot of fun to be had.

Rating: 3.5/5

Do Revenge is now available on Netflix

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