- Run time: 1 Hour 37 minutes
- Studio: Touchstone Entertainment
- Director: Gil Junger
- Where to Watch: Disney+
10 Things I Hate About You is a 1999 release from Gil Junger, starring the venerable pairing of Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. It is based on the Taming of the Shrew comedy by William Shakespeare. Modern day imaginings of classic Shakespearian plays are relatively commonplace and tend to do well. Just look at The Tragedy of Macbeth, one of my favorite movies of the year. 10 Things I Hate About You occupies a space in my mind that I had reserved for things I would probably never watch, or at the very least, not enjoy watching. On the surface, it seems so mundane and filled with left over 90s techniques and aesthetics that horribly date the movie, rendering it impossible to immerse myself into. But this interpretation dials up the comedy and creates a heartstring pulling story that renders this movie an instant classic.
Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has just transferred to Padua High School and is the odd man out when all the cliques and social groups reveal themselves. A fellow outcast and newly exiled “Future MBA” member named Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz) gives Cameron the tour of the school and introduces him to the environment. On the tour, Cameron sees a girl and is instantly smitten by her. Her name is Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik) and her father forbids her and her sister from dating during school. Cameron is so taken with her that he enlists Michael’s help to figure out a way to go on a date with her. After a failed attempt, Cameron and Michael form a new plan to control the players in their game, rather than play the game themselves. Only this plan involves getting Bianca’s sister, Kat (Julia Stiles), to go on a date with the school’s resident bad influence, Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger).
Ledger and Stiles are the obvious stars of the show. The chemistry and raw emotion on display from each of these two young actors is nothing short of incredible. Julia Stiles plays her character, Katarina Stratford, with all the charm and likability of a 2×4. She’s insufferable with her constant professing of her beliefs and stances with a callousness that grates over the ears of everyone around her. Her character’s young age and background (rich parents, huge house, expensive school) would make it easy to dismiss her thoughts as uninformed and unrealistic. But when it is revealed that her opinions are sourced from a place of trauma, the audience begins to see that Stiles’ character is true to herself and should be admired, rather than dismissed.
Heath Ledger’s character, Patrick Verona, experiences a similar but more predictable transformation. Ledger plays Patrick Verona as the classic high school bad boy, the one that only does something under the guise that it will pay off for himself. Initially, Ledger is motivated by money, but he secretly wants to help Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, even if he doesn’t know it himself. This is shown to the audience when Ledger and Gordon-Levitt’s characters are talking about how Cameron doesn’t want to be interested in Bianca anymore. Ledger delivers a line that says “Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want” and it is delivered so perfectly that it really got in my head.
While Ledger’s character was saying that to somebody else, he was really convincing himself that Kat was worth going after, regardless of his own situation. There is the predictability of Ledger being motivated by money or a bet, falling for the girl, and then getting found out. It was telegraphed from the very first scene, but whatever. Not a huge flaw, but one worth mentioning.
There isn’t much to say about the visuals or scoring of this movie because it’s such a character and story driven movie. There didn’t need to be impressive set pieces or incredible CGI. The set design just needed to blend into the background and not get in the way of the characters. The only gripe I can take points off for is that it looks and sounds like a 90s movie. It’s hard to avoid that and given the trends at the time, it’s not surprising. I would have liked to see a little more thought given to not dating the movie as much.
10 Things I Hate About You is one of my new favorite movies and one I can see myself watching many more times in the future. It pulled on my heartstrings in ways that reminded me of The Princess Bride and La La Land. It’s a very fun and the impeccable casting really brought this classic Shakespearean comedy to life again.