How '90s teen movies inspired Netflix's Do Revenge

In Netflix’s teen comedy Take revenge, out friday queen bee drea (RiverdaleCamila Mendes) teams up with Eleanor (Strange things‘ Maya Hawke) to bring down each other’s enemies. The film, with screenwriter and director Someone GreatJennifer Caityn Robinson, is somewhat inspired by Patricia Highsmith1950 psychological thriller Strangers on the train, in which two men decide to “swap” murders. (This is also the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 film with the same name). Nobody actually dies take revenge but countless acts of character assassination have been committed by these shrewd young women. And in high school, a tarnished reputation is far worse than death itself. That’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 clicked almost immediately,” Robinson tells TIME, recalling the original idea for adapting the novel. “The core concept of the book fits so beautifully into the high school ecosystem.” If anything, she thought it was more exciting that Drea and Eleanor weren’t complete strangers, but classmates who lived in completely different social circles. There is so much at stake for these young women if they are caught, but they are too full of anger to rethink their grammatically incorrect plan.

Robinson, who also co-wrote Thor: Love and Thunderexplains how Sarah Michelle Gellar, Olivia Rodrigo and Glenn Close inspired her new film.

Take revenge is a love letter to 90s teen movies

Sarah Michelle Gellar as

Sarah Michelle Gellar as “The Director” in Do Revenge

Kim Sims—Netflix

Robinson said Take revenge with Easter eggs that pay homage to “movies I would go to Blockbuster and pray were in the store.” The director’s Gen Z students gather around a fountain in token of token Vic, play croquet just like the prototype mean girls in Heathers, and go to paintball meets that rival Kat Stratford 10 things I hate about you.

Robinson realized that she had included “subliminal Easter eggs” in the film, which she did without her realizing it. Take revengeThe opening shot of a license plate reading “DUMBTCH” is an unintended reference to a similarly sassy toilet sign from 1999. jaw breaker, dark teenage comedy about a kidnapping gone horribly wrong. “It came about because Netflix told me to cut [the line] ‘that dumb bitch,’ and I thought it would be funny to start from the frame with that license plate,” she says. Although she is Jaw breaker shoutout “wasn’t intentional,” she notes that “as a fan of the genre, these things just live in your brain and soul, so they probably came from somewhere deep in my psyche.”

Some references were intentional. Robinson knew she wanted Sarah Michelle Gellar to play the director of bonsai pruning at Drea and Eleanor’s private high school. The Cruel intentions star plays the film’s only adult character, a “juicy and fun role” for the former teen queen who was inspired by her cocaine-fueled cross-carrying character in the above movie. “I agonized over the dialogue,” says Robinson, 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 we’re best friends… They say don’t meet your heroes, but you should meet Sarah Michelle Gellar.”

Jennifer Caityn Robinson’s Miami Connection

Robinson is an incredibly visual filmmaker who often “writes while Pinteresting.” For take revenge she wanted to embrace the bold color palette of Miami, where the film is set. That’s why school uniforms are less Gossip girl and more Harry Potterof Fleur Delacour at a Bad Bunny concert. “We really blew it out and wanted it to feel rich in color,” she says. “It’s loud, lively and boisterous like Miami.”

Robinson would know since she grew up there. “I actually went to prep school in Miami, so some of the parties [in the film] are parties I’ve been to,” she says. Even the hedonistic reception party where the film’s final act takes place was inspired by more than a few parties she attended as a teenager. “It was a strange time,” she says. “It was Miami, no rules.”

Maya Refico as Montana, Alicia Boe as Tara, Camila Mendes as Drea and Paris Berelk as Megan in Revenge (Kim Sims—Netflix)

Maya Refico as Montana, Alicia Boe as Tara, Camila Mendes as Drea and Paris Berelk as Megan in Do Revenge

Kim Sims—Netflix

how Take revenge does Gen Z right

Robinson worked closely with her film’s two main characters, Mendes and Hawke, to make sure their characters felt real. For her, collaboration is key to creating a sense of life in a film. “It sounds like I’m really selfless, but I’m not, what I do is incredibly selfish,” she says. “I hire all these amazing people and they do their job and make me look better.” Not that the actors had a hard time. “They’re very engaged and really understand the demographic,” says Robinson. She often “teamed up” with Mendes about how far they needed to go in terms of the camp factor. “Cami really created her image visually: the hair, the makeup, the grab-and-go wardrobe,” she says. Mendes had the idea that Drea’s wardrobe would become more cluttered as the character began to feel less in control.

To play the duplicitous Eleanor, Hawke read Malcolm GladwellBook of 2019 Talking to 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. Many of her favorite lines in the film were that Hawke “looks at what’s on the page and makes it a thousand times better,” Robinson says. This includes Hawke’s catchphrase “bitchasaurus rex,” her nickname for Drea, as she goes further down the revenge rabbit hole. “I heard her say it and I was just like, ‘Yes, Maya, that’s perfect,'” she says. “I couldn’t have written anything this good.”

Maya Hawke as Eleanor in Revenge (Kim Sims—Netflix)

Maya Hawke as Eleanor in Revenge.

Kim Sims—Netflix

Bridging the musical generation gap with Olivia Rodrigo and Hole

with Take revengeIn Robinson’s soundtrack, he wanted to return to the music of his youth without getting too carried away with nostalgia. “I wanted it to make you feel,” she says. “Whether it’s, ‘Oh, this is exciting and new,’ or, ‘Oh, I’ve heard this before and I miss it.'” She originally planned the soundtrack to include covers of her favorite ’90s teen movie songs performed by contemporary artists. “But I don’t want a cover of ‘Flagpole Sitta,'” says Robinson, referring to Harvey Danger’s iconic single, which is performed on Disturbing behavior, the 1998 teen sci-fi film starring Katie Holmes and James Marsden. “I only want ‘Flagpole Sitta.'” (Take revenge features a cover of Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America”, a song also covered by Clueless.)

She realized that Take revenge is a fresh, new take on the movies she’s grown to love, and the soundtrack needs to strike the same balance. That’s why the film features tracks from current pop stars like Haley Kiyoko, Billie Eilishand MUNA, as well as ’90s favorites like Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch.” The two songs that Robinson says best represent the soundtrack are Olivia RodrigoHole’s “Brutal” and Hole’s “Celebrity Skin,” two rock songs that feel spiritually connected in the way they portray the angst of a teenage girl. (Last year, Hole lead singer Courtney Love also drew attention to their similarities, blaming Rodrigo for tearing off the cover of her band.)

There’s one artist who doesn’t appear on the soundtrack, but whose influence on the film Robinson won’t deny: Taylor Swift. “There definitely are Reputation semitones in the film,” says Robinson, who is a fan of the singer. Eleanor even used her own spin on the most infamous line from Swift’s song “Look What You Made Me Do” to explain her recent makeover: “Old Eleanor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead. Robinson chose to remain silent on why there is no Swift song on the film’s soundtrack. (“Yeah, I won’t say more, I don’t want to spoil anything.”) But I offered perhaps a clue as to why: “Don’t stream Reputation until he got Taylor’s version.

Camila Mendes as Drea in Revenge (Kim Sims—Netflix)

Camila Mendes as Drea in Revenge

Kim Sims—Netflix

how Take revenge draws the ire of the teenage girl

Robinson sees a lot of herself in Drea, especially when it comes to the anger she feels towards her ex-boyfriend Max (EuphoriaAustin Abrams) and anyone else who took advantage of her. “That feeling that it hurts to exist starts in those junior high and high school years, but it doesn’t go away. I still feel that way 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 move on and learn to deal with it.

The movie even coined a phrase to describe that perfect cocktail of rage and drive that Drea has: Glennergy. “It is [Do Revenge co-writer] Original by Celeste Ballard. It was in the first draft she wrote,” Robinson says of the term, inspired by Glenn Close’s Killing a Bunny Fatal attraction. “I think if you’ve got Glennergy, you’ve got swag. There is a fire in your eyes that is seductive and very disturbing.” Knowing this, Robinson hopes viewers will feel noticed Take revenge. “But,” she adds. “I also hope they’re not trying to copy anything that Eleanor or Drea are doing.”

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