Do Revenge: a charming chick flick homage

From “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” to “The Kissing Booth,” Netflix has carved a sizable niche for itself. The end-all-be-all when it comes to mid-budget teen rom coms, their chick flicks are filled with endless viral internet potential, though they don’t exactly have a reputation as future Oscar winners. 

The latest product of their reliable, Twitter-friendly formula is “Do Revenge” starring Camila Mendes (Riverdale) and Maya Hawke (Stranger Things). Despite similar exterior trappings to the many middling teen Netflix comedies that have come before it, Do Revenge’s duo of leading ladies delivers a witty, charming, instantly-iconic, sapphic rom-com with a pitch-perfect soundtrack and more ‘90s/’00s chick flick references than you can shake a stick at. 

Lifting heavily from the likes of “Mean Girls” and “Clueless,” “Do Revenge” follows Drea Torres (Mendes), a beautiful but shallow student at the ultra-preppy, ultra-rich and green-and-purple pastel uniform-wearing Rosehill High. Despite attending the uber-elite preparatory academy, Drea comes from humble means and works tirelessly to ensure that her reputation at Rosehill is spotless, until an internet scandal brings her carefully-built exterior tumbling down.

Luckily for Drea, an unlikely meeting with tomboyish new girl Eleanor (Hawke) leads the two to hatch a plan: Eleanor will exact revenge on the students behind her downfall, while Drea takes care of Eleanor’s beef with Rosehill student/ex-crush Carissa. Throw in a last-act twist that breathes new life into a familiar narrative, and you have the recipe for “Do Revenge,” the paradoxically unlikely and meticulously-crafted homage to classic chick flicks that sets the bar for Netflix teen comedies.

“Do Revenge’s” classic premise is hardly the root of its success, though the ample references and throwbacks to films like “Jawbreaker,” “10 Things I Hate About You” and “She’s All That” certainly strengthen the film’s credibility among older fans and lend a distinct tone and sense of humor not often found among Netflix films. The bubblegum exterior, bombastic costumes and soundtrack (featuring the likes Olivia Rodrigo, Hayley Kiyoko, Rosalía, Phoebe Bridgers, and Billie Eilish) all combine to create a memorable aesthetic flare. But it’s unquestionably the combination of Mendes and Hawke that makes “Do Revenge” so successful.

The snappy dialogue and Twitter-influenced speech patterns of “Do Revenge’s” surreal characters play perfectly to the wit and nonchalance that makes Mendes’ Riverdale performance as Veronica Lodge so memorable. But where the dialogue on “Riverdaleis often viral for its bizarre lack of quality, the surprisingly dimensional characters of “Do Revenge” provide her ample opportunity to flex her dramatic muscles outside the walls of Pop’s Diner. 

As Drea, she brings a genuine charm and warmth to the prototypical ‘mean girl’ that makes for both a refreshing protagonist and a gratifying use of Mendes’ talent as an actress. It is not just any actress who can hold her own against the charisma and comedic talent of Hawke. To see Mendes as both dramatic lead and scene stealer tossing out identity politics-ladden one-liners is a sight to behold.

Speaking of Hawke, she is certainly pulling her weight as well. The film as just as much hers as Mendes’s. Drea is introduced as the POV character, complete with narration. However, the film’s second and third acts begin to more closely follow Hawke as Eleanor, the prickly, tomboyish transfer student with a standing date with her therapist and an emotional support bearded dragon named Oscar Winner Oliva Colman. While Eleanor may begin as the clear-cut comic relief, she quickly develops an intriguing dimension of her own by way of her revenge subplot, especially after a certain late-game twist that I will not spoil here. 

Though Eleanor’s down-to-earth vibe may initially paint her as the more relatable of the two in the eyes of the audience, there is still plenty of zippy humor and Gen-Z pop culture references in her dialogue to ensure she does not stick too far out from the idyllic landscape of this private California preparatory school. It is hard to pick a favorite between Eleanor and Drea, which is likely the intended dynamic. As wonderful as they are separately, they are even better as a duo. 

There is a startling depth to the bond between Eleanor and Drea that lends the heavier, dramatic scenes a genuine tension and heartbreak that is entirely unexpected for a film of this nature; that is all thanks to the undeniable chemistry between Hawke and Mendes. I am not ashamed to admit that there were moments watching Do Revenge where I genuinely thought the two were going to ditch their arbitrary romantic subplots and end the film hooking up with each other, but even without romance in the mix, the Eleanor/Drea relationship is believable, relatable dynamic that is the core of “Do Revenge.”

Add in a sprinkle of Sarah Michelle Gellar as their statuesque headmaster, toss in plenty of mushroom-fueled hijinks, and top with a healthy dash of outrageous, instantly-quotable one-liners (“I don’t DO COCAINE!”), and you have got “Do Revenge:” the perfect homage to early 2000’s chick flicks and one of Netflix’s strongest original comedies yet.