Main cast: Heath Ledger (Patrick Verona), Julia Stiles (Katarina Stratford), Larisa Oleynik (Bianca Stratford), and Joseph-Gordon Levitt (Cameron James)
Director: Gil Junger
So how does 10 Things I Hate about You fare as a teen movie remake of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew? Well, I like it.
Katarina and Bianca Stratford are two sisters as different as day and night. Kat’s the antisocial one, and all Bianca wants to do is to be a blonde Betty to any Archie in high school. Only Daddy, a gynecologist who has a phobia about empty-headed Bianca ending up pregnant and unwed at 18, has forbidden her to date before Kat ever does. Trouble is, Kat refuses to date any guy, and the guys reciprocate in kind (“Date Kat? Only if we’re the last two person on Earth… and if there are no sheep around!”) Enters Cameron who is besotted with Bianca. Cam’s the new geek in school, and with the aid of a fellow geek, abetted the class jock (who wants to… ahem, date Bianca for a bet) to pay super-rebel Patrick to go date Kat. When Kat finally dates, Cam hopes to sneak around and win Bianca’s attention.
Now, in the original Shakespeare play, I was struck by the shallowness of Bianca and her beau’s relationship. It’s all physical. Here, I wonder why a nice boy like Cam will even look at a shallow empty-headed bubble like Bianca. Bianca gets a little more mature by the end of the movie, but she only reminds me why I don’t like 16-year old heroines. They’re shrill, annoying, and vain. And yes, Bianca’s shrill, annoying, and vain.
It is Katarina and Patrick who steal the show. Julia Stiles is wonderful as complex, angry Kat, a woman who is more intelligent than the entire cast of high school kids in the movie put together. Her scenes with Patrick is tender and have the most impact on my memory. I especially love the scene on the swing where Kat is drunk. She reveals a lot about her hurt in vulnerable ways.
The movie falters though when it introduces some shallow psychobabble about sisterhood and independence. 10 Things I Hate about You is a light, fun movie and this psychology nonsense is really jarring, especially as it is treated carelessly and superficially.
In the end though, the movie wins me with its charm and the wonderful performance by Julia Stiles.