Back to School #56: 10 Things I Hate About You (dir by Gil Junger)


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A few nights ago, my sister Erin and I watched the 1999 high school-set romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You for like the hundredth time.  Seriously, we love this movie so much and, in fact, just about everyone that we know seems to love it as well.  10 Things I Hate About You is one of those films that brings people together.  If you like this movie, I’ll probably like you.

(Want to see true displays of spontaneous sisterhood?  Go to Girlie Night at the Alamo Drafthouse when they’re showing 10 Things I Hate About You.  You will walk out of the movie with a hundred new best friends.)

Why do people love 10 Things I Hate About You?  There’s a lot of reasons.  I love Heath Ledger singing Can’t Take My Eyes Out Of You.  I love watching Joseph Gordon Levitt at his most adorable.  I love that it’s a film about two sisters, largely because I have three older sisters and there is so much about the scenes between Kat (Julia Stiles) and Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) to which I could relate.  I love the film’s quirky sense of humor and its unapologetically big heart.  I love the way the film’s script expertly balances cynicism with sentimentality and humor with warmth.  I love the fact that movie takes in place in beautiful houses and features beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes.  What Erin and I especially love about this film is that, as played by Julia Stiles, Kat is just a kickass chick.

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Of course, there’s a reason for that.  Much as how the superficially similar Clueless was adapted from Jane Austen’s Emma, 10 Things I Hate About You is adapted from Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew.  Oddly enough, Shakespeare’s plays seem to translate well into stories about high school.  Maybe it’s because his characters are so often motivated by jealousy, romance, and — it must be said about some — by pure stupidity.  10 Things I Hate About You is definitely one of the best of the teen Shakespeare films.

Taking place at an upper class high school, 10 Things I Hate About You opens with Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) arriving for his first day at Padau High School and quickly befriending the only slightly less adorable Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz).  Cameron wants to ask out the beautiful and innocent Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) but Bianca’s overprotective father (played by Larry Miller) has decreed that Bianca can only date if her older sister Kat (Julie Stiles) is also dating.  The problem is that all of the boys at school are scared of the outspoken Kat.

So, Cameron convinces the hilariously vapid male model Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) to pay the school rebel, Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger, so handsome and charismatic and sexy), to ask Kat out on a date.  Joey, you see, wants to date Bianca as well but Cameron is sure that he can win Bianca away from Joey…

Yes, it’s all a little bit complicated but then again, Shakespeare often is.  For that matter, so is high school.

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What matters is that all of this leads to a collection of classic scenes and classic dialogue.  What’s my favorite scene from 10 Things I Hate About You?  There’s so many that it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one.  There’s the huge party where Joey continually strikes a pose and a drunk Kat ends up dancing on a table.  There’s the wonderful scene where Patrick serenades Kat.  Or how about when Kat reads the poem that gives the film its title.  But for me, my favorite scene is that one where, after spending nearly the entire film as rivals, Kat and Bianca finally talk to each other as sisters.  Bianca demands to know why Kat won’t go to the prom.  Kat tells Bianaca about her own previous history with Joey.  It’s a low-key and heartfelt scene, wonderfully played by both Larisa Oleynik and Julia Stiles, and I love it just because I’ve had similar conversations with all of my sisters.

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I suppose this is where I should make some clever comment about having “10 things I love about 10 Things I Hate About You” but actually, there’s more like a 100 things I love about 10 Things I Hate About You.

This movie makes me happy every time I see it.

And, really, what else can you ask a film to do?

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