It’s rare to find a teen comedy that’s not only fun but smart. Most squander any potential they have by embracing every dopey cliche and incorporating every overused gag. “10 Things I Hate About You” is an interesting case. It definitely has its fair share of cliches and many of the character types have been used several times over. But at the same time the film is clever and infectiously charming. It’s such a likable movie and even after recently revisiting it after a few years I found myself once again having a great time with it.
Gil Junger directed this modern twist on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”. Junger never directed much other than sitcoms and that’s a little surprising. He manages this film well and keeps things moving at a nice pace. He was also blessed with a talented young cast. “10 Things I Hate About You” was the launching pad for the careers of Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. These three drive the main story which is sometimes a bit formulaic but it never ceases to be entertaining.
Stiles plays the antisocial feminist outcast Kat. She’s constantly at odds with her popular sophomore socialite younger sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). Levitt plays Cameron, a new student in their school who is smitten with Bianca at first sight. Ledger plays another outcast who pretty much operates by his own rules. We also get a pompous jerk of a jock, a geek without a clue, and an overprotective but well-meaning father. Most of these are characters that we’ve seen in many other movies. You can’t help but notice it. Yet even with that and a few plot points that will feel very familiar, “10 Things” quickly attaches you to these characters and its hard not to care for them.
The movie has its fun moments and there are some interesting relationships at work. But it also deals truthfully with several real teen issues that I still respond too. The script dances through all of these things and rarely does a disservice to any of them. There are times where things just get silly and a bit absurd. A particular school detention scene and another one taking place in Kat’s literature class instantly comes to mind. These feel lame and fabricated and in some ways clash with the movie’s better moments. But these weaker lazy moments don’t define the film as a whole.
And getting back to the performances, it doesn’t take you long to notice that Heath Ledger was a special actor. He was always known to bring an authenticity to every role and we definitely see it here. Even in the few occasions where the script trips up, Ledger never lets the scene go to waste. It is such a spirited and strong performance. I also liked Stiles here, an actress who I have always felt was generally underrated. Her character is a bit obvious but she has such a good chemistry with Ledger. And Gordon-Levitt is also a lot of fun. At first I thought I knew exactly what type of stereotypical character he was going to portray but he turned out considerably different.
“10 Things I Hate About You” is what’s called a teen comedy and that title alone deservedly gives you reason to pause. But while it may appear to be the traditional nonsense that we often get, it is actually a lot more. The characters, their personalities, and their situations are convincing and interesting. And even though we get occasional breezes of routine storylines, the film manages to do things a bit different and it never feels conventional. That’s why the movie always works for me regardless of how many times I have seen it.
Great review Keith! I LOVE this movie, I have watched it so many times and it never gets old. Smart, witty, funny, charming, it really covers it all, and Ledger was (as with everything else) amazing here.
Isn’t it good. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that is often times stale and annoying. Thanks for the comments!
Having teen and Pre-teen daughters when this first came out, it was inevitably on our must see list. I put up with a lot of dreck in those years, but I am happy to say that this was a refreshing and intelligent change of pace. While not exactly the same, there were several parallels between my kids and the two sisters in the story. That made the film feel special to them, Oh and Heath Ledger. Heath Ledger was really solid and even the cutsey sequences felt right with how he sold his character. Allison Janney as usual, steals a couple of scenes. I think this is Larry Miller’s best role, his overprotective father was a little close to home at times. A treat that I can re-watch easily.
Your last line says it best. That’s exactly how I feel about it. It’s one of those movies with so many good moments and so much truth at it’s core that I can watch it anytime it is on.
One of those movies I have never seen but have been hearing good things about…
It’s definitely worth checking out. I actually saw it by accident. It’s one that normally wouldn’t appeal to me considering the company it keeps within that genre but it really is a nice surprise.
I love this film, Keith. Everything about it is fun, smart–Heath and Julia are wonderful together. The message is important, too, about being yourself and learning to trust. Nice post, Keith.
One of my all time favourite teen comedies. It does the genre so well, doesn’t compromise on the usual teen film antics. The characters are great to watch and there is a fantastic group of young actors at work here supported by some older ones. Adore this film. Glad you enjoyed too!
I really did. I remember the first time I saw it. I was so surprised that it was as good as it was. In fact, I was so caught off guard that I just assumed I was wrong and almost dismissed it. But then I saw it again and again and again and I realized that I really did like the movie.
Love this movie! It’s one of my favorites from the 90s. You’re right – the movie is blessed with such a talented young cast. Makes me miss Heath Ledger every time I watch it.
One cool thing I remember after watching behind the scenes on this movie in one of the final scenes, when Kat is reading her poem, and then she cries at the end – the director was saying how Kat crying was never in the script, but that Stiles added it. I thought it was such an honest scene, and it’s a reminder of how underrated and majorly talented Julia Stiles is.
Great review, Keith!
I absolutely love that scene. It really does feel honest and genuine. I’m completely sold on the emotion every time I see that scene.
one of my favorite chick flicks!
Glad to hear that. I really think this movie deserves the fan base it has.
This movie gave us JGlev and Hedger and for that, I will always love it.
It did indeed.
The movie that introduced me to Ledger and I followed him since. JGL was also a fan favourite of mine from 3RD ROCK… And fun movie overall.
Great one Keith!
Thanks man. It really is a fun film. And Ledger really came onto the scene then. Like you, I’ve loved Ledger’s work since.
Pingback: Movie Review – Dark Knight, The – Fernby Films