Do Revenge (2022) Directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
You have to be mercifully patient to enter the lush, pastel-colored world of Do Revenge without wanting to tear your hair out in irritation; it’s not merely an act of tolerance, it’s literally a painful subjugation in which you feel every damn minute of its bloated running time. Extravagantly frivolous and verbose, this puerile film directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson is as replete with flamboyant and playful ideas as it is vacuous for lacking the robust ability to craft its idiosyncrasies with genuine vivacity. Do Revenge unabashedly sells itself as a fabulous mimicry of ’90s teen cinema, yet it seems more a pantomime of its own ineffectiveness and clumsy youthful gestures, ridiculing its kitschy informality and juicy insensitivity.
There is a narrative instability in Do Revenge that quickly turns it into a falsely appealing film; for visibly, the irrepressible fussiness and its raucous, brainless dynamism is wrapped up in something uniquely showy, and therefore transforms its intense idiocy into an inevitable magnetism that can coax the most effortlessly manipulated audience. Yes, the film is ecstatic and constantly electric, even contagious to some limits, but it is when you reach those limits that you awaken from that illusory duplicity, or rather come out of its multicolored hypnotism to realize that its handsome artificiality evaporates at the same instant that your intuition exposes the heavy-handed falsehoods of this inept comedy.
With the same rhythm as the great Clueless (1995) and with the same juvenile idealisms as in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) Do Revenge interweaves paradigmatic generational narratives in an environment appropriate to the 2020s. Notwithstanding those styles consubstantial with the decade of the 90’s are not simply influences that lend mischievous character to the politically adherent subject matter of a new generation, they operate under a dull perspective of homage that just happens to be a lousy version of the films it pays tribute to. There is an abysmal difference between paying homage to the peculiarities, and equally the intrinsic clichés, of the teenage narratives of the past versus blatantly wanting to imitate them. By this I am not specifically seeking to say that the satirical repetition of the genre is a boring and obsolete exploitation, but that one should choose to give those traditional functions a correct use under a valid language. In simpler words, use productively the conventionalities not to disguise the unoriginality in a dubious pretty appearance, but rather use the roots as influences that push you to take a new and original direction but, without losing the sparkling sense of the picturesque comedy and the unconditional clichés. Do revenge is a saucy comedy that uses a cynically postmodern lexicon that appears to be making a sharp commentary on contemporary society within metaphors that take place in the student milieu.
Up to this point, the primary goals of this production are in place, though many of these get out of hand, however provocatively, they are purposes that stall in a humorous irrationality that is more banal in its depths than intelligent. That happens for many reasons, but if there is one that must be defined and exclaimed, it is that of its sloppy nineties pantomime.
Narcissistic Drea Torres, played with vindictive malice by Camila Mendes, is the epitome of the popular girl in school; she dates the rich, insufferable but most handsome boy in school and her outfits are always at their glamorous peak. But her vainglorious life and bright future is cut short when a private sex tape of hers is infiltrated all over the internet, thus demolishing her ”worthy” reputation in the blink of an eye. As a result of this infamy, Drea, more irascible than ever, decides to create the best revenge stratagem to ruin those involved in this ignominious act, mainly her ex-boyfriend, whom she directly blames for this event. To carry out her plan Drea befriends the new girl at school, the friendly but deceitful Eleanor played by Maya Hawke, who develop a symbiotic plan to consummate their revenge, Eleanor would take revenge on a girl who ridiculed her for being a lesbian when she was a child and Drea would take revenge on her self-centered ex-boyfriend. Both of them helping each other to accomplish the sweet revenge not only discover more about themselves but also about their true intentions. Narratively, it is a film that complicates itself by wanting to make absolutely everything as pompous as its style, for some that will be an unbearable flaw and for others an enjoyable flaw.
In synthesis, this design that romanticizes the adolescent insecurities and psychological sensitivity of this fickle period in school life, obstinately paralyzes itself in an absurd and illogical scenario, if it really intended to make an exalted satire with dyes of black humor, why is it that it seeks to redeem its incorrigible characters?
I think there is a massive problem with the writing of this film, erratic conceptions that never manage to coherently discern what it wants to narrate. Do Revenge histrionically confuses narcissism with psychopathy. To see a plot materialize where ambitious teenagers live based on their superficial lives and the dynamics of social hierarchies, and when these are affected they react in such a delirious and criminal manner, does not necessarily mean that a story with acid cynicism and intelligent provocation is being consolidated, rather it is the opposite, it establishes a plot even more narcissistic than its characters, for there is an obsession with making the satirical glitter as a proud mechanism of ostentatious filmmaking, so vain that it forgets that it is narrating a supposedly reflective story. Egocentrism, narcissism, psychopathy and sadism are wrongly employed as synonyms, none of them meaning the same thing, yet for the crude prose of this script, they are the “qualities” that make its characters “interesting” to watch.
Do Revenge initiates with hostile snark and ends with stultifying cheesiness, neither the former nor the latter orchestrates its narrative and cinematic principles with ideal creativity. It’s almost two abusive hours of empty characters formalizing vendettas as the only fun thing to do in their pathetic lives, if that’s really the best they have to do with their miserable lives, why the hell did the filmmakers think we’d care to invest time in them?