Note: The following contains spoilers for the “Do Revenge” ending. Do not read until after you’ve seen the film.
The Hitchcockian Netflix movie “Do Revenge” contains several twists and turns, even by “Strangers on a Train” standards. Jennifer Kaytin Robinson describes Hitchcock’s classic “Strangers on a Train” as one source of inspiration for “Do Revenge,” which stars Camila Mendes, Maya Hawke, Austin Abrams and many more famous young faces. But one thing both have in common is a whopper of an ending.
“Most of it is departure I think honestly, it’s really just the very basic conceit,” director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson told TheWrap in a zoom interview during which she also discussed the “Do Revenge” twist ending, as did Maya Hawke.
In the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, two random strangers meet on a train and get to talking about how they’re not exactly happy with their lots in life. One of the strangers, Bruno, dreams up the idea of switching places in terms of fixing the other’s life, meaning he would kill the other man Guy’s wife while Guy would kill Bruno’s father.
Connections can be made between Bruno and Guy and Drea (Mendes) and Eleanor (Hawke), but not line for line. Eleanor first meets Drea at a tennis camp, where Drea has gone over the summer after a tumultuous school year, at the beginning of which she was on top of her school’s social hierarchy with everything going for her. Max Broussard (Austin Abrams), Drea’s boyfriend back then, asks Drea to send him a steamy video since he knew she would be gone over the summer, but instead of keeping it to himself, he leaks it to the whole school, and Drea’s rightful reaction of punching him in the face does not go over well because he denies having leaked the video.
At tennis camp, Eleanor hears whispers of the video circulating, especially at the hands of Erica Norman (Sophie Turner), who Eleanor outs to Drea. Drea then frames Erica for having cocaine on her and gets her kicked out of tennis camp. Eleanor gains Drea’s trust further when Drea’s car’s spark plug gets stolen and Eleanor gives her a ride home. The two bond on the car ride over trauma, Drea telling Eleanor about the video and Eleanor telling Drea about the time at summer camp when Carissa Jones (Ava Capri) outed her (Eleanor is LGBTQ) and started a rumor that Eleanor tried to hold Carissa down and kiss her. Eleanor also reveals to Drea that she is transferring to Rosehill for senior year.
On the first day of school, the two meet up in the bathroom because Drea thinks they shouldn’t let on that they know each other. As they commiserate about running into their enemies (Max and Carissa), Eleanor casually wishes they could hire someone to take them down, or in Drea’s words, “a f–-ked up Taskrabbit.” Drea then suggests that they do each other’s revenge, with Drea going after Carissa and Eleanor going after Max. Drea easily takes down Carissa, who runs the campus farm, garden and greenhouse, where she grows magic mushrooms and weed. The night of the senior class ring party, Drea sprinkles Carissa’s secret mushrooms into all the food, drugging all in attendance. Drea then anonymously tips off the headmaster (Sarah Michelle Geller) who busts Carissa and kicks her out of Rosehill.
When it becomes Eleanor’s turn to dethrone Max, she hesitates because Drea has given her a complete makeover to fit in with Drea’s former friend group, and she finally feels like she belongs somewhere in the elite cool kids’ group. Drea is busy hooking up with Russ (Rish Shah) but also texting Eleanor at an alarming rate, when she starts to get suspicious of why Eleanor isn’t following through with their plan. Max and company throw Eleanor a surprise birthday party, sucking Eleanor further into their web. Drea sees the party happening on social media and crashes, where she and Eleanor have a heated discussion outside and Eleanor doubts that Max actually leaked the video Drea sent him, sending Drea storming off.
Somewhere amidst all this craziness, Drea learns that someone initially stole her spark plug back when Eleanor offered to give her a ride back from tennis camp, and the following montage reveals that Eleanor was behind of a lot of these fateful moments all along. It was Eleanor who sent the video to Erica, Eleanor who took Drea’s spark plug.
Drea visits Carissa in rehab (where Erica Norman also happens to be), and she tells Carissa why she took her down because of what she did to Eleanor. Carissa reveals that it was actually Drea who did all that stuff to Eleanor, and it is definitely sick and twisted that she does not remember any of it.
“It was unclear in the film how the reveal was going to work and how to indicate enough to the audience of Eleanor’s backstory and oddness that they believe it when it happens, but not so much that they guess it before it comes,” Maya Hawke told TheWrap in a phone interview.
Hawke portrayed Eleanor several different ways throughout the filmmaking process so that Robinson could sew the end result together in editing.
“We actually ended up really filming three different versions of each scene — one where Eleanor obviously had an ulterior motive, one was where there was no hint of having another motive and one was where I kind of sprinkled moments in — so that Jenn had a lot of freedom in the edit to really build up that reveal,” she added. “There was just this collaborative relationship and deep trust between the two of us to kind of put everything out on the table so that it could kind of be molded like clay in the edit.”
Eleanor awaits Drea after Drea gets home from her visit with Carissa, and she knows that Drea now knows. Eleanor blackmails Drea (threatening to frame her mother for possessing drugs like Drea did to Erica) so that Drea has to play puppet for Eleanor and take not just herself down but her whole friend group as well.
The climactic setting for Drea’s duplicitous downfall unfolds in an Ivy league acceptance party that Max throws at his house. Anyone accepted to an Ivy League college only has to present their acceptance letter for admission to the party, but no phones are allowed because crazy things go down. Eleanor plans to record everything through a broach she pins to Drea’s dress and then blast the video recording out from an IP address on Drea’s laptop, but Drea stomps on the broach after she and Eleanor get into an argument about why they are doing this to each other. Max overhears their argument and laughs at their exposure of each other, but Eleanor ends up recording his admission to leaking Drea’s video with her “double assurance” backup broach cameras. They then project the video in Max’s house for all to see, and his former friend group back Drea and Eleanor, telling Max to leave because of what he did.
Eleanor does get revenge for Drea after all. The two girls then skip graduation and literally drive off into the sunset together to Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch,” as, in Drea’s words, “f–-ked up soulmates.”
“The ending was always there. The ending was always going to be the ending,” Robinson said. “What Maya was speaking to and what we did was, it was dialing up and dialing down her performance so that as we were crafting the character of Eleanor, if we wanted to have shades of her being a little more duplicitous or a little nicer, whatever, I always had the ability in the edit to morph her performance in whichever way I wanted to. The ending was what was in the script.”
Hawke also shared what she hopes viewers take away from “Do Revenge.”
“What’s great about that film is that it doesn’t tell the viewers what to take away. You can end the film feeling like you love Drea and Eleanor or feeling like you hate them,” Hawke said. “I hope that they take away that you have to figure out healthy ways to deal with your anger because if you don’t, it will eat you alive. I am still working on figuring out how to deal with mine. I think it’s a lifelong struggle for most people. I hope they take away that anger is really dangerous if you don’t do it in a healthy way.”
“Do Revenge” is now streaming on Netflix.