“You’re in all probability going, ‘Is that this like a Noxzema business or what?’” Cher Horowitz mused within the opening montage of “Clueless,” laughing with pals in her Jeep Wrangler and splurging at Tiffany’s on Rodeo Drive. That scene, set to the Muffs’ pop-punk cowl of “Youngsters in America,” painted a heady portrait of ’90s youth and extra.
Twenty-seven years later, a brand new model of “Youngsters in America” — by the indie-pop singer Maude Latour — performs in “Do Revenge” as throngs of wealthy, Gen Z teenagers spiral into varied states of ecstasy and despair after they unwittingly ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms at a college dinner.
The Netflix darkish comedy (out Sept. 16) is filled with such winks to its teen movie forebears. There’s a guided tour of the varsity’s cliques (as seen in “Imply Women,” “10 Issues I Hate About You” and extra) and a requisite makeover (a staple in “Clueless,” “She’s All That” and so many others). However lots of the “Do Revenge” references additionally function a playful reckoning, mixing nostalgia with wholly up to date tastes and points.
“I’m obsessive about highschool films,” the director and author Jennifer Kaytin Robinson mentioned. “However, very particularly, this kind of movie that I simply really feel like doesn’t get made anymore.”
Whereas in postproduction on her first movie, the 2019 rom-com “Somebody Nice,” she and one of many producers, Peter Cron, started analyzing her favourite ’90s entries within the style — “Clueless,” “Merciless Intentions,” “10 Issues” and “Jawbreaker” — and customary threads of campiness and satire emerged. And, excluding “Jawbreaker,” they had been all reimaginings of basic works. (That might be “Emma,” “Harmful Liaisons” and “The Taming of the Shrew,” respectively.)
Robinson and Cron brainstormed classic materials they may rework in a highschool setting. Cron recommended trying to Alfred Hitchcock. “Rear Window” had gotten the teenager remedy within the 2007 thriller “Disturbia.” What about his 1951 noir “Strangers on a Prepare”? As an alternative of two grown males swapping murders, two teen ladies might concoct a plot to “do revenge” of the nonviolent type on their exes.
The similarities just about finish there, however from that germ of an idea, Robinson and her co-writer, Celeste Ballard, crafted the acerbic story of Drea, a queen bee who turns into a social pariah after an intimate Snapchat video she despatched to her boyfriend, Max, is leaked to their complete Miami prep college; and Eleanor, a mysterious outsider trying to convey down a woman from summer season camp.
“Teenage ladies are fascinating. They’re these little engines of chaos,” mentioned Robinson, who created the MTV sequence “Candy/Vicious” and co-wrote “Thor: Love and Thunder.” She added, “Highschool in and of itself is its personal stage and the right method to inform these kind of twisty, turny tales.”
She discovered her leads within the “Riverdale” star Camila Mendes and the “Stranger Issues” actress Maya Hawke. In supporting roles are standouts from different current teen-centric fare, together with Austin Abrams (“Euphoria”), Alisha Boe (“13 Causes Why”), Talia Ryder (“Hey, Goodbye and Every little thing in Between”) and Rish Shah (“Ms. Marvel”). The assembled forged, fittingly, dubbed themselves “The Revengers.”
Each Mendes, 28, and Hawke, 24, had been skeptical about taking up one other teen position, however Robinson’s imaginative and prescient and the characters’ complexities on the web page satisfied them this wouldn’t be a typical return to the style.
“I used to be like, ‘Oh, wait, that is actually good and actually sensible. And it’s not simply one other excessive schooler. It’s probably the most badass, psychopath excessive schooler that I’ve ever learn,’” Hawke mentioned of her character, Eleanor. She’s not merely chaotic and loopy, Hawke added, “she’s a harm particular person with motive.”
Mendes, who performs Drea, echoed her: “You get this notice a lot in Hollywood that’s all the time like, ‘We don’t need her to be too unlikable. She’s acquired to be likable.’ After which what finally ends up occurring is you get these actually one-dimensional feminine characters. Drea shouldn’t be that.”
Whereas a leaked Snapchat serves because the MacGuffin and texting is pervasive, the director, together with the manufacturing designer Hillary Gurtler and the costume designer Alana Morshead, didn’t attempt to drive too many Gen Z-specific traits. As an alternative the three millennial ladies tried to create a vibrant “lady world” that blended the previous and the current in a colourful manner.
“Between Gen Z and millennials, you’ve acquired an extremely sensible viewers, visually attuned greater than every other beforehand,” Gurtler mentioned. “So as an alternative of pandering on to someone, it’s like, let’s construct this unbelievable world, and their tastes and imaginative and prescient will meet it.”
Morshead modeled the Rosehill prep college uniforms after these frequent in South Korea however reimagined them in a Miami-fied pastel palette of lavender and mint. She sourced equipment and streetwear from small labels run by ladies and other people of colour, together with Miracle Eye, the Mighty Firm and Muaves, and added a smattering of classic couture the place the funds allowed.
However maybe most vital in crafting the movie’s general really feel, Robinson mentioned, was the music. To attain a no-skips CD expertise just like the film soundtracks she cherished as a teen, Robinson opted for hits by Gap, Meredith Brooks and Fatboy Slim alongside newer needle drops from Olivia Rodrigo, Muna and Caroline Polachek. She employed Este Haim and Amanda Yamate to create an authentic, neo-noir-tinged rating, and enlisted the music supervisor Robert Lowry to tug all of it collectively.
“I didn’t actually care about them being probably the most recognizable songs. I wished them to elicit a sense in you,” Robinson mentioned. “It was much less in regards to the name-iness of the artists or the songs, and it was far more about, does the music convey you again to a time?”
Visible nostalgia is likewise key. Teenagers play croquet on a garden à la “Heathers.” The favored children perch on a fountain simply as they did in “Scream.” There’s a “10 Issues”-inspired paintball date. Eleanor drives a classic luxurious automotive in a nod to Sebastian’s prized possession in “Merciless Intentions.” And to explicitly tie up the connection between “Do Revenge” and ’90s popular culture, Robinson forged Sarah Michelle Gellar in a small however satisfying position as Rosehill’s headmaster, nearly the one grownup character.
But, in contrast to the homogeneity of many highschool movies of the previous, the filmmakers wished “Do Revenge” to extra broadly mirror the youth of right now. It facilities the tales of Latina and queer teenagers and, aspirationally, doesn’t permit characters to hurl insults about bodily look or sexuality. These ladies may dub somebody a “human Birkenstock” however by no means a “full-on Monet,” a shift Robinson mentioned she felt a “duty” to convey.
“We tried to root all of it in character, slightly than look or id,” Robinson mentioned. “You may be biting. You may be satirical. However these surface-level jabs, these kinds of imply feedback, I hope that they only go away. They’re so boring. For those who’re going to be imply, be sensible.”
Right here, the favored unhealthy boy is a nail-polish-wearing, earring-adorned belief fund child whose androgynous model was partly impressed by that of Harry Types. “I appreciated updating that from the imply guys in these ’90s films we’d seen earlier than,” the costume designer Morshead mentioned. “He doesn’t should be the stereotypical, brooding jock.”
Max’s villainous nature hides behind performative ally-ship — he begins a college membership known as the Cis Hetero Males Championing Feminine Figuring out College students League — and pretend feminist gestures.
“I do know so many individuals like that in Hollywood,” Mendes mentioned. “There’s positively this ongoing joke with me and my feminine actress pals the place we discuss how there are such a lot of Maxes in Hollywood, it’s insane. They’re adored by the general public, however all of the individuals within the business know what they’re able to, and it may be extremely irritating.”
Actually, in “Do Revenge” nobody is what they appear on the floor. The strains between good and evil characters are blurred, and plenty of who do horrible issues discover their method to accountability and redemption by the movie’s finish.
“I believe that cancel tradition is stunting individuals’s need and skill to truly develop previous the wrongs that they’ve dedicated,” Robinson mentioned. “This complete movie is about saying, ‘Yeah, you probably did some unhealthy stuff. You made some unhealthy decisions, however day by day is a day the place you may change into higher if you wish to flip the nook.’”