Written by Fantasma el Rey
10 Things I Hate About You is the best of the slew of teen comedy/dramas that hit the screen in the late 1990s. A strong cast, good writing and the fact that it’s built around a Shakespeare play are some factors that set this film apart. Ten years after its release by Disney/Touchstone it is still loved and widely watched as this 10th Anniversary Edition proves.
The basic story is a simply one. Adored teen daughter (Larisa Oleynik) of an overprotective father (Larry Miller) won’t let her date until her antisocial older sister (Julia Stiles) does. So a pure-hearted admirer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) of the adored cutie and his friend (David Krumholtz) set in motion a plan that involves a rich snob (Andrew Keegan) and a mysterious outsider (Heath Ledger) to lure said older sister into the dating sphere. Along the way much fun is had, love is fallen in and out of, youths party and dance, the villain is foiled, the boys get their girls, and all is right with the world.
Sound vaguely like a Shakespeare play? Well it is, sort of, The Taming Of The Shrew. The writers envisioned a modern-day (1990s) version of the play set in a high school and somehow it works well. Blending some classic Shakespearean lines in along with their own witty dialog and cleverly mixing and matching names for certain characters. Examples are Patrick Verona for Petruchio, born in Verona; Katharina and Bianca are now Kat and Bianca Stratford for the birthplace of The Bard himself; and the students attend Padua High School (an actual high school building in Washington that looks like a castle) named after the city the play is set in.
Clever and well done with its many memorable lines and scenes that push the limit of its PG-13 rating, 10 Things has held its own in the ten years since its release. The film never talks down to its audience in general. The characters are never stupid (although some do dumb things) or try to talk in then-current hipster lingo. We get smart, bright youths who can act and speak intelligently. The majority of the cast were actually teenagers themselves while filming and playing these roles, which shines through in their chemistry. As you watch you get a sense that some will go on to bigger things in their careers.
The DVD bonus material includes a funny, anecdote-filled audio commentary by writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith along with cast members Oleynik, Keegan, Krumholtz, and Susan May Pratt (Kats friend Mandella, who’s madly in love with Shakespeare). As a bonus there is a 30-minute documentary with vintage interviews from the cast and current reflections by director Gil Junger as well as the brilliant writing duo. This edition comes with a digital copy on a separate disc for those who want to take the film wherever they go. Noted on the DVD are deleted scenes that are not shown separately but included in the documentary.
The movie isn’t a masterpiece or a perfect film. There are many little flaws and shooting goofs, but unless you have that keen movie eye or it’s pointed out, you may never know. 10 Things I Hate About You came together very well and is very enjoyable today as it has been through the years; one of my many guilty pleasures.