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Do Revenge’s ’90s Teen Movie Homages, Decoded


Do Revenge’s most obvious spiritual predecessor is 1999’s Cruel Intentions. Gabbi (Talia Ryder) can be seen reading the 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, on which the movie is based, at a school assembly. A quote from Choderlos de Laclos’s novel graces the wall of a classroom behind Drea’s head. And Hawke is the daughter of Uma Thurman, who played Cecile in 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons adaptation.

Even more of a direct casting influence is Austin Abrams’s Max—described as “patriarchy incarnate, the ultimate manic pixie dream boy” in the film—who was inspired by Ryan Phillippe’s Sebastian, says Robinson. “Max being vanquished to ‘Praise You’ at the end of the movie is obviously a nod to Cruel Intentions,” Robinson says.

And who could miss Sarah Michelle Gellar, who invokes the wickedness of her scheming Cruel Intentions character Kathryn as the film’s headmistress—a fantasy come to life for Robinson. “She was the dream, I just didn’t think she was attainable, and she read it and liked it,” the filmmaker says. “Sarah said something to me that the minute she said this my whole body relaxed. This is maybe the best compliment I’ll ever get as a filmmaker ever in my life. She said, ‘When I read the script, I thought, I wish I were 19 so that I could be in this. If I were 19, I would be stalking you to play one of these two characters.’ Hearing Sarah Michelle Gellar say that about this film…I was just like, oh, wow, this might work.”

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If Max is Sebastian, then Rish Shah’s Russ is a proxy to Patrick Verona, the motorcycle-riding, bad-boy-adjacent love interest played by Heath Ledger in this beloved 1999 staple of the genre. In tribute to the flirtatious paintball scene between Patrick and Julia Stiles’s Kat Stratford, Russ and Drea make a little art of their own. Unfortunately, their reconciliation doesn’t involve any marching bands or confessional poetry.

Eleanor and Drea may be “wounded soldiers on the battlefield of adolescence,” but at least they’re in good company.



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