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10 Things I Hate About You

Review by Gregory Avery
Posted 9 April 1999

  Directed by Gil Junger.

Starring Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Larisa Oleynik,
Joseph-Gordon Levitt, David Krumholtz, Andrew Keegan,
Larry Miller and Allison Janney.

Screenplay by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith,
based on William Shakespeare's play
"The Taming of the Shrew".

It would be easy -- too easy -- to dismiss this latest modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare for the Clearacil set (it's "The Taming of the Shrew", this time) as simply being a collection of puerile jokes regarding sex, genitals, bodily functions, and other such pressing concerns of the adolescent consciousness. On the other hand, if the film is any evidence of the sort, it's pleasing to know that high school life hasn't changed all that much over the last twenty years: that it is still divided into rigid social stratas; that kids still worry about whether they're doing, saying, or looking in such a way that they won't be picked-upon and they'll fit-in; that they have to contend with teachers and academic counselors who don't play-fair and don't quite fit the pictures of the ones your parents probably had (or claim they had); that they rooms are comfortably cluttered and that they're private sanctuaries that are regarded and treated as such; that they still have problems figuring out how to ask for a date, and, then, how to tell their dates goodnight after driving them home; that they're still trying not to make it glaringly obvious to their friends and classmates that they're still searching for their identities, scared to death of taking chances, mortified over doing something embarrassing, and that, sometimes, the only way to get through it all is by the seat of your trousers, intestinal fortitude, and luck.

At Padua High School, located somewhere in the rolling, upper-class suburbs of Tacoma, Washington, Kat and Bianca Stratford are forbidden from dating by their father (Larry Miller), unless Kat starts going-out, herself. Kat (Julia Stiles) doesn't want to go out with anybody, and is a defiant loner. Then, two guys who want to date Bianca -- self-smitten Joey (Andrew Keegan), and needy-looking but sincere Cameron (Joseph-Gordon Levitt) -- arrange to have another loner, Patrick Verona (Australian actor Heath Ledger), attempt to take Kat out for a date, thus freeing Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). Kat and Patrick verbally spar, but -- then they find -- could this be -- might it be -- ?

In between the naughty bits, the filmmakers -- director Gil Junger and screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith -- come up with some genuinely good humorous bits that show that they might just be able to make a good comedy once they graduate from the high school scene. And the adolescent actors are quite agreeable to watch. Peculiarly, no one sits down and makes out a list of ten things they dislike about anybody in the picture (something that must've fallen out of the film, somewhere, during production).

If anything, it contains what has to be one of my favorite lines of the year, so far, in any movie. To confirm whether her sister even likes guys or not, Bianca tells Cameron that she rummaged through the contents of Kat's bedroom dresser and came up with conclusive proof: "I found a picture of Jared Leto in her drawers...!" Jared Leto, the guy who played a hermaphrodite pirate in The Crew and the kid who shot a dolphin, just to see what it would be like, in White Squall! While the actress Julia Stiles is stern-faced but otherwise seems eminently approachable, maybe her character, Kat, is more perverse than the movie is letting on.

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