10 Things I Hate About You (1999)    1 Stars

“They’re spitefully romantic”

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Director: Gil Junger

Cast: Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Synopsis: A new kid must find a guy to date the meanest girl in school, the older sister of the girl he has a crush on, who cannot date until her older sister does.

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New kid Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) arrives at Padua High School and immediately falls for the cute Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). Bianca seems keen on him too, but there’s a problem: Her controlling father has forbidden her from dating any boys until her shrewish older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) starts dating. Given that Kat is completely unimpressed by any of the boys at school and actively discourages any attempts to get close, Cameron’s hopes of dating her younger sister seemed doomed. However, with the help of obligatory comedy sidekick Michael (David Krumholtz), he devises a plan to pay someone to woo Kat. Because Cameron lacks the necessary finances to fund his plan, Michael persuades the year’s conceited cool student Joey (Andrew Keegan), who also has a thing for Bianca, to put up the cash. Only one student seems man enough for the job, and that’s the semi-psycho Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger)…

10 Things I Hate About You is a teen comedy-romance based on the William Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew, and it’s fairly good. The kids are largely portrayed as reasonably intelligent, with only Michael and his female counterpart Mandella (Susan May Pratt), coming across as poorly drawn comedy stereotypes who become involved in a daft Shakespeare-themed romance. Because this is an adaptation of one of the Bard’s works there are, perhaps inevitably, numerous references to him and his plays, some more subtle than others, but The Taming of the Shrew provides only the sketchiest of templates for the film’s plot.

One of the key things that makes 10 Things About You a success is that all the characters are likeable — even the ostensibly obnoxious Joey whose flaws are sugar-coated because they’re played for laughs from the outset. Although Ledger was only 20 when the movie was released, he seems much older — too old, in fact, for the part of bad kid Patrick. Of course he’s not really a bad kid — in fact his psycho persona is quietly dropped once he’s given some lines to speak and within a few minutes he’s dispensing brotherly nuggets of wisdom to young Cameron. Ledger and Stiles play well off each other, and although Stiles isn’t a conventional beauty she possesses a spark and a wit that make her appealing. She also demonstrates a pleasing talent for comedy. There are couple of misfires: that Michael and Mandella sub-plot for example, and a woefully misjudged feel-good moment in which Patrick, accompanied by the school’s marching band, serenades Kat to the tune of Andy Williams’ Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You. Overall though, 10 Things I Hate About You proves to be a superior entry in the high school romantic comedy genre, and still manages to look relatively fresh fourteen years after it was first released.

(Reviewed 6th October 2012)