Sarah Knauf’s review published on Letterboxd:
Note: I wasn't going to write a super long review for this but reading the reviews for this by men has forced my hand. Also, I'm writing this on Women's Equality Day yay.
There is something to be said about a film that lacks any sort of subtlety and still is utterly thought provoking.
The lead of Revenge, Jen, is not the virginal daughter from rape-revenge films past. She initiates oral sex. She's the "other woman." She dances with her boyfriend's friends and wears only panties around them. And yet, when it comes down to it, there is never truly a moment where you can't root for her. Her male counterparts are so vile and (scarily) true to life, that whatever preconceived notions about Jen the viewer might have are quickly evaporated. The first moment we see her she's sucking seductively on a lollipop wearing hot pink star earrings; those earrings never get taken off. It's still the same woman, but for all those involved, the viewpoint one has of her massively changes.
As overly graphic and intense as the film can be with its violence, the true horror lies in an early scene, before the inciting incident. Her boyfriend's friend Stan walks in on Jen changing. She quickly covers up. He sits down next to her and makes brief small talk, before asking her, "What is it you don't like about me?"
She laughs nervously. "No, nothing-"
He cuts her off: "I just want to know, so, tell me. What is it you don't like about me?"
She thinks for a long moment before telling him, "You're not my type, that's all."
"Oh," he says. There's a pause, as she smiles at him, hoping to be let off the hook, and then, "Why am I not your type?"
The conversation continues for a few more moments, progressively getting more and more hostile, and eventually, the inciting incident happens; what occurs is what happens when men don't understand when a woman says no.
Underneath the sharp cinematography, bright colors, and (at times questionable) synth music, a film for women, by women emerges.
A pattern with male cinema critique is the at-times subconscious (other times it's fully conscious) scaling down of a work because it's directed by a woman. There are messages in woman-led films that men inherently won't understand. There is a similar pattern in films made by POC that are criticized in much the same way, but there are far better voices to tackle this than mine. Far too often men feel the need to qualify or defend a lower rating of a film directed by a woman or POC, saying that it's "not that good" or they "don't get the hype." There is an idea, whether subconscious or not, that a praised film directed by a woman or POC is only praised because of "political correctness."
On the subject of woman-directed films, it's a point of fact that some perspectives are going to be more in tuned to the subject matter than others. No Man's Land is the most prominent example of this. A favorite anecdote of mine is Patty Jenkins having to fight to keep the scene in her own film. So in a way, women have to explain themselves and their work, and while, obviously I'm not involved in this film besides being a viewer, when a film about a woman is so poorly misconstrued by men on this website I kind of feel like I have to defend myself.
Reviews on here range from calling the film and its protagonist "misanthropic," "politically correct," and "not realistic." (I want to point out that not everyone has their real name on here so it's impossible to tell who's a man or woman or other, but from what I've seen, at least, the majority of detractors skew more male)There are several comparisons to Tarantino, citing Coralie Fargeat as a wannabe or lesser version than him. How then can this film really be called unrealistic while also being compared with something like Kill Bill? Because we all know that Tarantino is a realist filmmaker. There are also several comparisons to I Spit on Your Grave, but simply reading the first part of my review would tell you why this is not at all an apt comparison.
I could nitpick and go on and on about these contradictions (of which there are many), but the real heart of the issue here is, reviewers will go out of their way to review an "other" filmmaker to someone they're more familiar with. And this is the real, major problem. It is true that certain films have more impact on certain people. But instead of inserting oneself so diligently into an audience role that one so obviously does not belong in, perhaps it is better to absorb the reviews from people whom the film is fully reaching. It is, of course, acceptable to dislike a film for story, acting, content, etc. But to discount a movie because of its message when the message is clearly not intended for everyone is a foolish way to look at films. And of course, women don't have to like every female-directed film. Unfortunately for many groups though, the selection on representation is limited, so for majority groups to voice their opinions on a film based on their own expectations, and not the expectations of an intended audience, limits the voice of these minority filmmakers.
Anyway. This was long and rambling, and either no one will read it or I'll lose followers, but the big fat TLDR is: I liked this film for a lot of reasons, most of those reasons being because I'm a woman, and if you want to criticize a woman's perspective on a movie made by a woman and you're not a woman, maybe think a little bit more next time about why this is not the best idea.