Ever since it was officially unveiled in July, Take revenge has rightly been one of the most anticipated Netflix movies of the year – and not just because of its ridiculously good cast, stacked with favorites from the biggest shows around.
The concept of the mean girl and a social outcast teaming up in high school to take down those who have wronged them is delicious enough. It brought back memories of several cutting youth films from previous years such as e.g Ignorant and Heathercombined with a Hitchcockian edge.
With Stranger Things star Maya Hawke and RiverdaleStarring Camila Mendes, the signs were promising that we could get a classic teen film to add to the pantheon of classics.
Unfortunately, though Take revenge is an often entertaining and wild ride, it fails to give us one important thing to make it sing: a character to actually root for.
Co-writer and director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson certainly doesn’t hold back on gags at the expense of the characters that populate the Rosehill prep school where the action takes place.
In classic teen film fashion, there are many cliques at school, and Robinson targets those at the top of the social agenda in particular. Drea (Mendes) used to be part of Rosehill’s “royal court” with her boyfriend Max (Euphoria‘s Austin Abrams), but after an intimate video is leaked, her carefully managed status comes crashing down.
When she teams up with Eleanor (Hawke) to bring down Max, the film doesn’t hesitate to show just how awful Drea’s former friends are. In one of the standout gags, Max creates a new society at school after Drea’s video leak called the “Cis Hetero Men Championing Female-Identifying Students League”.
Nothing particularly subtle Take revenge, including the excellent costume design, but that’s part of the fun. Buzzwords are frequent in the dialogue, almost as much as the needle drops from Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and more, and you will certainly see memes everywhere from the film.
It’s all expertly crafted to be a breezy entertaining teen film, elevated by its perfectly cast leads. Hawke can do awkward-but-cool outsider in his sleep as seen in Stranger Thingswhile Mendes is excellent as her defiant – potentially more unhinged – partner-in-revenge.
As their scheme of assumed identities and subterfuge unfolds, you’re right there on their side having just as much fun. The problem comes when you realize that you have actually been sucked in and that they are potentially not as loving as you first thought.
Main characters don’t have to be likable for a movie to succeed, of course, but Do Revenge feels like it’s trying to get you to emotionally invest in them. Without going into spoilers, the convoluted plot has revelations that affect the tone of the final act, and what should be moments of triumph end up feeling empty as a viewer.
Things end up being packaged a little too cleanly where there is such a dark edge to everything else. The film would have been better off committing more to the cynicism at the risk of leaving a bitter taste, but at least it would have been authentic to the world.
Still, when you have a teen movie that stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as the principal in a brilliant cast, you can’t end up being too angry. It’s just that there is so much right elsewhere in it Take revenge that the flatter final act stands out more.
If you’ve ever wanted to see Hitchcock’s Strangers on a train play with a group of bitchy teens, then Take revenge gives exactly what you want. It may not reach the classics of the teen movie genre, but it’s still a lot of darkly entertaining fun.
Take revenge is available to watch on Netflix from 8am UK time (midnight PT) 16 September.