Poor Generation Z: Unlike those of us who grew up in the late ’90s and early aughts, they haven’t experienced the joy of coming of age during a glorious era of teen comedies. Blockbuster hits from She’s All That to Not Another Teen Movie to Mean Girls captured the chaotic essence of the new millennium maybe more than any other form of media. But despite the presence of wildly popular teen shows like Euphoria, the teen movie—by definition, a light comedy that dives into the “emotional torrent of adolescence“—hasn’t had a 2020s renaissance.
Netflix’s new runaway hit, director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s Do Revenge, might be here to change that. The film delicately walks the line between outright satire of and earnest homage to the genre that raised so many of us—while also remaining refreshingly authentic to the ethos of Gen Z culture.
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Do Revenge, which stars Riverdale‘s Camila Mendes and Stranger Thing‘ Maya Hawke, has a classic teen-romp plot. Drea Torres (Mendes) is the most popular girl with all the fixings—a “hot” and rich boyfriend, gorgeous girlfriends, and a one-path track to Yale—but she’s had to work for everything she has. She doesn’t come from money and has carefully curated her school social life to reflect the world she wants for herself. After an intimate video she sends to her boyfriend, Max (Austin Abrams), is “leaked” (spoiler alert: he leaks it), she unexpectedly teams up with social outcast Eleanor (Hawke), who is looking for revenge on a bully of her own.
We won’t spoil the twist ending, but we will say this: Do Revenge just might be the most deliciously fun teen movie since Mean Girls. (No shade whatsoever intended toward the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy; those aren’t so much comedies, as we firmly place those under the “teen romance” category.)
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What makes Do Revenge work is that it’s a teen movie that knows it’s a teen movie. This meta approach is what has attracted not just teenage viewers but also older millennials who remember the exact films Do Revenge pays respect to. You can argue about whether it’s a good thing that our culture is so saturated with nostalgia—not just in film, but also fashion and music as well—but Do Revenge manages to do nostalgia while making it feel new, thanks to quippy screenwriting and a good-natured willingness to poke fun at woke culture.
Below, we explain the five major components that make a great teen movie, and why Do Revenge deserves its spot on the list with the best of them.