Revenge is a dish best served cold, or in the case of Netflix’s Do Revenge, best served by others. Set in the world of rich and privileged high school students, Do Revenge looks to take its place in the history of high school movies by adding its own progressive vision to the genre.
Drea (Camila Mendes) and Eleanor (Maya Hawke) are the unlikely duo looking to avenge each other. They are brought together by a series of seemingly convenient coincidences and decide that the best way to get back at the people who have wronged them is for the other to do so as to avoid any suspicions. Drea is tasked with getting revenge on Carissa (Ava Capri) an old crush of Eleanor, who outed her and accused her of being a sexual predator. Eleanor in turn must makes things square with Drea’s ex-boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams) who shared a private racy video with the high school population.
If its Hitchcockian ambitions were not enough, Do Revenge also packs on the social satire. Writers Celeste Ballard and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson who also doubles as director, have much to say. The film teeters between idealism and nihilism. On one hand, Drea and Eleanor are victims of horrible norms that plague our society. They look to right a wrong by exposing their bullies. On the other hand, their acts of revenge are horrifying unto themselves, even illegal, and leaves viewers unsure whether there is any character worth rooting for. The movie discusses several ideas that questions whether any of the characters are pure victims, or are their experiences simply a product of an environment they helped perpetuate. Issues dealing with race, social classes, and sexual identity also make up the varied tapestry of themes the movie explores.
The complex nature of these ideas is best personified by Drea. Camila Mendes shows off her acting skills and does an excellent job of bringing to life the different layers of her character. Unfortunately the rest of the characters are not given as much depth. Maya Hawke is not given enough to do with Eleanor, and through no fault of her own feels like a supporting character in her story. Max is the typical high school villain: entitled, popular, priviledged, and white-male enough to get away with his transgressions. Carissa has an interest in botany which lands her in trouble. Russ (Rish Shah) is there to be a love interest and look pretty. Erica (Sophie Turner) is a pier who gets caught up in the crosshairs of revenge and ends up in rehab for seeemingly comedic purposes. The actors do the most with what they are given, but can not help ending up being cliches of the genre. All of them are also obviously too old to realistically pass as high school students, a high school movie tradition.
Do Revenge tries its darndest to stand apart from other high school movies. It succeeds in being the most progressive but falls short of meeting its lofty ambitions. Genre clichés are alive and well, and the movie ends the way one would expect a high school movie to end just moments after teasing to fully unleash the nihilism it flirted with all throughout. Ultimately though, it is a disappointment that Do Revenge does not go as far as it should have to establish itself as the definitive high school movie. When the credits start rolling, the final dish in this revenge course meal is indeed served cold.