How ’90s Teen Movies Inspired Netflix’s Do Revenge

Youn Netflix’s teen comedy Get Revenge, Queen bee Drea, (Friday)Riverdale’s Camila Mendes) teams up with wallflower Eleanor (Stranger Things’ Maya Hawke) to take down each other’s enemies. Co-written by and directed jointly by You are a great person’s Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, is loosely inspired by Patricia Highsmith’s 1950 psychological thriller A Train with Strangers in which two men decide to “trade” murders. (It’s also the inspiration for the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name). In reality, no one dies. Rejoice This group of young girls are responsible for many acts character assassination. A tarnished reputation in high school is worse than the death of oneself. It’s why it was so easy for Robinson to put a Gen Z spin on Highsmith’s 72-year-old novel: Hell hath no fury like a teenage girl scorned.

“It was one of those things where it almost immediately clicked,” Robinson tells TIME when recalling the original pitch to adapt the novel. “The book’s base concept fits so beautifully in the high school ecosystem.” If anything, she thought it was more exciting that Drea and Eleanor aren’t complete strangers, but classmates that run in entirely different social circles. There is so much at risk for these young women if they get caught, but they’re too full of rage to rethink their grammatically incorrect plan.

Robinson was also a co-author Thor: Love and ThunderThis is how Sarah Michelle Gellar and Olivia Rodrigo inspired her latest movie.

Get Revenge is a love letter to ‘90s teen movies

Sarah Michelle Gellar as ‘The Headmaster’ in Do Revenge (Kim Simms—Netflix)

Sarah Michelle Gellar as ‘The Headmaster’ in Get Revenge

Kim Simms—Netflix

Robinson filled Do Revenge with Easter eggs that pay homage to the “movies that I would go to Blockbuster and pray were in the store.” The director’s Gen Z prep schoolers gather around a fountain as a nod to Scream, You can play croquet as the typical mean girl in Heathers, and go on paintball dates that rival Kat Stratford’s in Ten Things I Hate about You.

Robinson has come to realize she included “subconscious Easter eggs” in the film that made it in without her realizing it. Get Revenge’s opening shot of a license plate that reads “DUMBTCH” is an inadvertent reference to a similarly cheeky vanity plate in 1999’s Jawbreaker, Dark comedy for teenagers about an erroneous kidnapping. “That came because Netflix told me to cut [the line] ‘that dumb bitch’ and I thought it would be funny to start off the frame with that license plate,” she says. She is not the only one. Jawbreaker shoutout “was not intentional,” she notes that “as a fan of the genre, this stuff just lives in your brain and your soul so it probably came from somewhere deep in my psyche.”

Some references were deliberate. Robinson knew she wanted Sarah Michelle Gellar to play the bonsai tree-trimming headmaster of Drea and Eleanor’s private high school. The Cruel intentions star plays the movie’s only adult character, a “juicy and fun role” for the former teen queen that was inspired by her cocaine-filled cross-wearing character in the above mentioned film. “I agonized over the dialogue,” Robinson says, worried it wouldn’t be good enough for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “But Sarah read it and we met and she said yes and now we have lunch every month and are best friends … They say don’t meet your heroes, but you should meet Sarah Michelle Gellar.”

Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s Miami connection

Robinson is an incredibly visual filmmaker who is often “writing while Pinteresting.” For Rejoice The bold hues of Miami were what she wanted, so she embraced them. It’s why the prep school uniforms are less Gossip Girl You can find out more Harry Potter’s Fleur Delacour at a Bad Bunny concert. “We really blew it out and wanted it to feel color soaked,” she says. “It’s loud, vibrant, and boisterous like Miami.”

Robinson will know because she grew up in Miami. “I actually went to a Miami prep school so some of the parties [in the film] are parties I have been to,” she says. Even the hedonistic admissions party where the film’s final act takes place is inspired by more than a few celebrations she went to as a teen. “It was a weird time,” she says. “It was Miami, no rules.”

Maia Reficco as Montana, Alisha Boe as Tara, Camila Mendes as Drea and Paris Berelc as Meghan in Do Revenge (Kim Simms—Netflix)

Maia Reficco portrays Montana, Alisha Boe as Tara, Camila Mendes as Drea, and Paris Berelc is Meghan in Do Revenge

Kim Simms—Netflix

How Get RevengeGen Z needs to be right

Robinson worked closely with her film’s two leads, Mendes and Hawke, to make sure their characters felt true to life. She believes collaboration is the key to making films feel alive. “It sounds like I’m really selfless, but it’s not, it’s incredibly selfish what I do,” she says. “I hire all these amazing people and they do their thing and make me look better.” Not that it was hard for the actors. “They’re very tapped in and really understand the demographic,” Robinson says. She often “mind melded” with Mendes about how far they should go in terms of the camp factor. “Cami really created her character visually: the hair, makeup, the snatched wardrobe,” she says. Mendes had the idea that Drea’s wardrobe would get more unhinged as the character began to feel less in control.

To play the duplicitous Eleanor, Hawke read Malcolm Gladwell’s 2019 book Conversations with Strangers which is about the challenges of learning to trust those we don’t know. “She really brought so much insight and nuance to the character,” she says. A lot of her favorite lines in the film were Hawke “looking at what was on the page and making it a thousand times better,” Robinson says. That includes Hawke’s ad-libbed line “bitchasaurus rex,” her nickname for Drea as she goes further down the revenge rabbithole. “I heard her say it and was just like, ‘Yeah, Maya, that’s perfect,’” she says. “I couldn’t have written something so good.”

Maya Hawke as Eleanor in Do Revenge (Kim Simms—Netflix)

Maya Hawke plays Eleanor in Do Revenge

Kim Simms—Netflix

Olivia Rodrigo, Hole and the bridge between generations musically

With Get Revenge’s soundtrack, Robinson wanted to throwback to the music of her youth without getting too bogged down by nostalgia. “I wanted it to elicit a feeling in you,” she says. “Whether that is, ‘Oh, this is exciting and new,’ or, ‘Oh, I’ve heard this before and I miss this.’” Initially, she planned for the soundtrack to include covers of her favorite ‘90s teen movie songs done by young artists of today. “But I don’t want a cover of ‘Flagpole Sitta,’” Robinson says, referencing the iconic Harvey Danger single that plays in Disturbing Behavior, The 1998 film starring Katie Holmes & James Marsden. “I just want ‘Flagpole Sitta.’” (Get Revenge does feature a cover of Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America,” a song which also got the cover treatment for Clueless.)

It was then that she realized the truth. Get Revenge The movie is an original, fresh take on movies that she loved growing up. It should be the same for the soundtrack. That’s why the movie includes tracks from current pop stars such as Hayley Kiyoko, Billie Eilish, and MUNA, as well as ‘90s faves like Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch.” The two songs that Robinson believes represent the soundtrack best are Olivia Rodrigo’s “Brutal” and Hole’s “Celebrity Skin,” two rock songs that feel spiritually linked in how they represent teen girl angst. (Last year, Hole’s lead singer Courtney Love also addressed their similarities, accusing Rodrigo of ripping off her band’s cover art.)

There is one artist who doesn’t appear on the soundtrack, but whose influence on the film Robinson won’t deny: Taylor Swift. “There are definitely some Reputation undertones in the film,” says Robinson, who is a fan of the singer. Eleanor even puts her own spin on the most infamous line from Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” to explain her recent makeover: “The old Eleanor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead.” Robinson chose to stay mum on why there isn’t a Swift song on the film’s soundtrack. (“Yeah, I’m not going to say anymore, I don’t want to ruin anything.”) But did offer perhaps a clue as to why: “Don’t stream Reputation until she has a Taylor’s Version.”

Camila Mendes as Drea in Do Revenge (Kim Simms—Netflix)

Camila Mendes and Drea in Do Revenge

Kim Simms—Netflix

How Get Revenge Taps into the teenage girl’s rage

Robinson is able to see a lot in Drea. She particularly likes the way she feels about Max.Euphoria’s Austin Abrams) and anyone else who has taken advantage of her. “That feeling that it hurts to exist starts in those middle school and high school years, but it doesn’t go away. I still feel like this today,” she says. “So I really tried to tap into the emotions that started then because I don’t think they go away. You just ebb and flow and learn to deal with it.”

Glennergy is a film that used a phrase that Drea created to express the ideal combination of drive, rage, and determination. “That is a [Do Revenge co-writer] Celeste Ballard original. It was in the very first draft that she wrote,” Robinson says of the term inspired by Glenn Close’s bunny killing turn in Fatal Attraction “I think if you have Glennergy, you have swag. There’s a fire in your eyes that is both alluring and very unsettling.” Knowing that, Robinson hopes viewers feel seen by Get Revenge. “But,” she adds. “I also hope they don’t try to copy anything that Eleanor or Drea are doing.”

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