[Ed. note: This post contains light spoilers for the end of Do Revenge.]
Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” may have become a summer theme song for Netflix, but its renewed attention is something of a marvel, as the streamer doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to pop songs. A quick scroll through Twitter or TikTok yields hundreds of posts mocking the Selling Sunset-ification of Netflix soundtracks, which are filled with up-tempo tunes that sound like #girlboss Mad Libs. If you’re looking for thoughtful, coherent lyrics, “It takes a thang like you / Then you change my path / I’m goin’ up, up, up / And I never last” leaves a bit to be desired.
It’s under this gray cloud that Do Revenge, a dark comedy starring Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke, arrives on Netflix. All signs point to yet another frothy young adult film in the vein of The Kissing Booth or the To All the Boys sequels (the original being a notable exception), but Do Revenge delightfully subverts these expectations, largely thanks to an absolutely killer soundtrack made up of hits from Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, and Rosalía.
Pop culture looms large over Do Revenge, which features two of the biggest stars of teen-oriented TV. Mendes (Riverdale) plays high school It-girl Drea, whose life implodes after a racy video is leaked online, while Stranger Things’ Hawke stars as Eleanor, an awkward transfer student at the prestigious Rosehill School. After meeting at tennis camp, Drea and Eleanor form an unlikely friendship and resolve to get revenge on each other’s tormentors. For Drea, that means her boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams, Euphoria), the suspected leaker of the video; for Eleanor, it’s her old bully Carissa (Ava Capri), who started a nasty rumor about her at summer camp when they were 13.
The Do Revenge soundtrack tells us everything we need to know about these characters, both good and bad. The 28(!) songs featured in the two-hour film range widely from sexy R&B ballads (“CYBAH” by Syd and Lucky Daye plays as Drea films her video) to Le Tigre’s pop-punk “Deceptacon” to a “Kids in America” cover from up-and-coming singer/songwriter Maude Latour, reinforcing the sense that Drea and Eleanor are still discovering who they are and how to connect with the world around them.
Unfortunately, that connection is grounded in trauma, and Do Revenge understands the need to maintain an edge with its musical selections. After Drea’s fall from grace sequence, Eleanor appears for the first time, as “Brutal,” Olivia Rodrigo’s scream-song about her dissatisfaction with adolescence, rings out, its fizzy exterior giving way to a vulnerable, disaffected underbelly. 20 minutes later, the film goes into full makeover mode (this is a teen movie, after all), but the scene’s background track, “Celebrity Skin” by Hole — “Beautiful garbage, beautiful dresses / Can you stand up or will you just fall down?” — casts an ominous shadow over the proceedings.
Like teenage girls themselves, who are consistently underestimated and belittled by society at large, Do Revenge’s soundtrack is many things at once. It’s powerful and purposeful; it’s brash and raw, yet understated when necessary; it’s self-effacing, then downright sexy. These seeming contradictions keep the viewer on the back foot, complementing the film’s shifting moral center and “there are no good guys” mentality. Drea and Eleanor may have been royally screwed over, but their attempts at retaliation are just as cruel, a fact director Jennifer Kaitlyn Robinson (Sweet/Vicious, Thor: Love and Thunder) never lets the audience forget.
After nearly two hours of duplicity (and one pitch-perfect cameo from Sophie Turner), the final scene of Do Revenge offers a bit of closure for Drea and Eleanor. Rather than attend graduation, they quite literally ride off into the sunset in a restored classic car, belting out Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch” as they drive down the beautiful Miami coastline. To be sure, the song selection is a bit on the nose for a film about girls scheming against one another, but Brooks’ lyrics reflect why Do Revenge is so successful: “I’m a little bit of everything / All rolled into one ... I’m your hell / I’m your dream / I’m nothing in between / You know you wouldn’t want it any other way.”
For fans of the genre, Do Revenge really is a little bit of everything. Part teen romance, part psychological thriller, part instruction manual for how to get the entire senior class high on mushrooms, Do Revenge is the rare Netflix movie that leaves a lasting impression, even if it does reward bad behavior. In this case, though, you wouldn’t want it any other way.
Do Revenge premieres Friday, September 16 on Netflix.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.