Do Revenge Is a Teen Comedy That Makes Patricia Highsmith Happy

Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers On a Train is a novel about repressed homosexuality and masculine panic—a queer author’s bleak exploration of the landscape of paranoia and self-loathing.

It’s piercingly observed, often funny, and always deeply uncomfortable. But it is not, in any sense, a happy or liberating book.

Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s Do Revenge is billed as a subversion of Strangers on a Train because it switches the protagonists from adult men to teen girls. But the real transformation is in mood.

There are black comedic elements here for sure, but—mostly for better, with maybe a hint of for worse—this is not really a mean-spirited movie. It likes its characters in a way Highsmith never liked hers; it skewers them, but only with love.

The film is set (like many a teen classic) in an elite private high school. Whip-smart, stunningly dressed Drea Torres (Camila Mendes) is the queen of the school. She hangs with the school’s wealthy elite in-crowd, even though she herself is a scholarship student and the daughter of a nurse.

In exploring the ins and out of patriarchy and its opponents, the film takes a doubled path. Over here, it’s a rom-comish celebration of a budding friendship, as Drea and Eleanor grow closer despite their differences, which they find out maybe aren’t such differences after all.

The rom-com/suspense dynamics work pretty well on the level of plot. Director Robinson manages to hit all the beats of both genres while weaving them around each other, which is quite a technical feat.

And thematically, the duality is a knowing metaphor for teen girl relationships, half effusive, passionate attachment, half Machiavellian death pit.

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