Friday, October 9, 2009

10 Things I Hate About You


There's nothing like a movie based on a Shakespearean play to get the teenage hormones firing. Well, perhaps not in their original form, but take out all of those "thees" and "thous" and you've got yourself the basis of a juicy, teen-friendly blockbuster hit. The real key is to trick kids into thinking that what they're watching is in no way tied to anything remotely educational or character-building, and leave them to be midguidedly amused upon reading the original and finding that the main characters share names with some of their favorite teen movie roles.

In the 90s, Shakespeare was actually pretty standard cinema fare, though 10 Things I Hate About You was most apt at repackaging the original concept. There was Baz Luhrman's iconic Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream with Michelle Pfiffer and Calista Flockhart, reincarnations of both Hamlet and The Twelfth Night, and even the semi-autobiographical Shakespeare in Love featuring Gwenyth Paltrow. Someone out there must have seen the rise in Shakespeare's 90s cinema stock and thought to themselves, "Now how I can I make this appealing to teenagers who consistently fall asleep while reading their 10th-grade English class copies of Macbeth?"

Indeed, moviemakers were up to the challenge, releasing 10 Things I Hate About You in 1999, a clever rethinking of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. See how much it helps to change the name? I'm not a hundred percent certain I could even recognize a shrew in a forest ranger lineup of woodland creatures, and I can't imagine delighting in the fact that the term was meant to describe the lowly and second-rate social status of women. A squirrel maybe, but a shrew? Really? They're not even industrious or cuddly. How insulting.

Lucky for us the new teen version respun the tale to include a mild dose of feminist manifesto, thus canceling out the play's original message of female subordination to their obviously superior male counterparts. In short, we were given an upbeat and more enlightened retelling of the original Shakespeare tale, though at least the initial setup of the storyline remained relatively intact. Cast any film with good looking, well-dressed teenagers and we'll all quickly forget that it's somehow laced into the rich heritage of significant 26th century literary tradition.



Even from the trailer alone it's easy to see all of the wonderful 90s teen movie cliches that so defined this iconic genre. Teen comedies were all the range, though 10 Things proved to be a bit smarter than its peers. For instance, it refused to employ the cheap trick of giving our supposed outcast glasses, which is essentially the equivalent of having a character cough to indicate future terminal illness. Instead, 10 Things gives us a sassy, independent-thinking social deviant who is cool in her own right, even if she doesn't abide by the same rigid standards of mainstream high school coolness as her sister. For a teen movie, that's a pretty lofty feat.

It's true to its Shakespearean roots in its utterly complicated and twisted plot. We open on Cameron's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) first day of school as his nerdy escort Michael gives him the grand tour complete with requisite clique overview. In the midst of his orientation, Cameron spots the beautiful and popular Bianca (Larissa Oleynik, who I still generally refer to as Alex Mack for mental cataloging purposes) and is immediately taken in by her physical charms. Michael wisely tries to dissuade his delusional companion, but he's too far gone to be swayed by logic. Instead, he signs on as Bianca's French tutor, ignoring the fact that he himself does not speak French.



Meanwhile, Bianca is smitten with tube sock model and toolbox extraordinaire Joey (Andrew Keegan), who while admittedly a dreamboat in the looks department is less than brimming with sparkling wit and conversational skills. Unless the conversation is about him, of course. Bianca's joyride is outed by bitter sister Kat (Julia Stiles), forcing their single father to reconsider his ironclad anti-dating policy. The new policy turns out to be Bianca can date when Kat chooses to date, creating a sticky and notably uncomfortable situation for all. Strategic parenting at its finest.

Cameron starts on as Bianca's French tutor, during which time he learns about Bianca's newly enforced dating restriction. Cameron and Michael hatch a scheming plan to find a suitable suitor for surly sister Kat. He approaches Patrick (the late great Heath Ledger), an Aussie loner with a reputation for dangerous behavior. After failing to convince Patrick themselves, Cameron and Michael consider a new strategy and enlist the help of BMOC Joey Donner. They broker a deal for Joey to pay Patrick in exchange for his Kat-wooing services, unaware of his role as middleman to Cameron.

Michael, angry for being chastised by his former group of nerdy preps, starts a rumor that classmate and rival Bogey Lowenstein's intimate get-together for his pre-WASPy friends is actually a party brimming with free beer and live music. All the while Kat is underwhelmed (maybe just whelmed?) by Patrick's attempts at romance




The whole school shows up at the Lowenstein residence, including Bianca and Kat after the former begged the latter to attend. Kat gets outstandingly drunk, dances on a table, and incurs a near-concussion as a result. Patrick is at her side the whole way, seemingly charmed by his former burden. Cameron learns that Bianca was actually playing him rather than the other way around, as she was using him as a pawn in her path to Joeydom. However, Cameron offers Bianca a ride home and is granted a kiss in return, refocusing his intentions.

After sobering up, Kat remains unimpressed by Patrick's attempts until he performs the ultimate grand gesture that left teen girls everywhere swooning:



There are some minor hiccups but Patrick manages to convince Kat that his intentions are true, which is actually pretty false and he's receiving $300 for his services. Granted, he seems to be into her, but I can't imagine I'd be pleased to find someone was being paid to date me. Bianca and Kat both end up at the prom on the respective arms of Cameron and Patrick, leaving Joey in the proverbial dust. Oh, and Bianca wears this godawful midriff baring two-piece number. Really, it's just completely hideous.

Joey spills the beans about the deal in a rage and justifiably, Kat's pretty pissed. Oh, and Bianca punches Joey and it's awesome. Almost makes up for the dress. But really, not quite.

Back at school, Kat reads her self-referential poem of the movie's namesake, "10 Things I Hate About You":




Everything and everyone comes to blows, but all seems well that ends well. Patrick buys Kat a guitar with his dirty bribe money, Kat's father permits her to go to her first-choice school Sarah Lawrence, and Bianca and Cameron are an item. Everything is fairly neatly tidied up for the ending as expected, but it's still sort of sweet.

It may not have been actual Shakespeare, but the movie did showcase a humor and wittiness that far outpaced its teen film genre competitors. Plus, it had a kickass soundtrack, or at least I perceived it to be back in junior high. Pretty much everyone left theaters humming Letters to Cleo's cover of "I Want You to Want Me", after all.

The movie relied on a lot of cliched teen movie tropes, but it turned some on their head as well. It was a better, smarter version of our stereotypical movie offerings, giving us a new teen world in which senior girls flash their soccer coaches as a diversion tactic and quirky school guidance counselors write smutty romances between sessions. What's not to like?

33 comments:

Au Lapin Blanc said...

God I love this film so much it hurts

Shop Girl* said...

I COMPLETELY forgot about this movie until right now! It was one of my absolute faves as a teenager though! *sigh* I miss Heath.

Jessica said...

This was one of my favorite movies as a teenager. I remember those days! I agree with Shop Girl, I miss Heath. :(

Scientific Housewife said...

Loved that movie, it actually intrigued me to start reading "The Taming of the Shrew"

Cee said...

This is one of the only 90s teeny bopper movies I actually enjoyed...I am a little pissed that it was made into a dumb TV show.

Melanie's Randomness said...

Omg I absolutely adore this movie!!! Omg love this post. I used to have on my myspace the clip of heath ledger sining on the field to her. And Omg the father almost stole the movie! And Andrew Keegan!! lol. Omg I could talk about this movie for hours. Love love it!!!

I hope you a great weekend!!

I'm doing a giveaway dear, you should totally enter! =)

Ice Queen said...

This is still my all time favorite movie. My high school boyfriend was a Patrick...and I'm a little angry.

It was obviously meant to be.

Jaime said...

Looove(d) this movie- I still watch it every time it's on TV. RIP Heath :(

Emma said...

One of my favorite films!! :)

KekeLynn said...

I think I've watched this about 100 times!!! haha

Justine said...

This is one of my favorite movies of all time!! I think I know ALL the words! Haha

Meghan said...

I fell in love with Heath a little bit when he sang over the PA system.

Loys said...

Oh how much I loved that movie and the soundtrack!

Carol said...

This was filmed in the area where I grew up so some of the people in my high school were cast as extras and I was so jealous of them!

Marci Darling said...

LOVE THIS MOVIE!!!!!!!!!!!

Tracy-Girl said...

I loved this movie!! I haven't seen it in so many years!

the girl in stiletto said...

i esp love the part when he sings cant take my eyes off you.

Freck said...

Love this movie. One of the best parts? Why, the penis being drawn on the face of course! Ha!

Cassie said...

I used to love that movie. I can't believe they made a TV show out of it! I don't even know how that will work.

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

I loved this movie!

RIP Heath Ledger, it makes me sad to think of this movie, he was amazing!

What ever happened to Julia Stiles, anyways!?

Okie said...

loved this movie...so much fun

Kristen said...

aww one of my favorite movies!!

Shannon said...

I love this movie with all my heart. It sparked in me a very long-lived girl-crush on Julia Stiles.

Lauren Kelly said...

I sooooooo loved this movie. The TV remake doesn't do it justice!!!

Melissa said...

I absolutely adore this movie! My friends and I must have watched it at least 25 times when it first came out. It brings back so many memories... speaking of which, I haven't watched it in years and need to watch it this weekend!

Andhari said...

I watch the tv series now just because i miss this so much.

One of my most favorite movies of all time, i remember most of the dialogues. LOL. The poem is heartbreaking..

Constructive Attitude said...

You know I've never seen that movie.

But "O" as in Othello, wasnt so great. it was actually depressing.

mollymouse said...

I watch this movie ALL. THE. TIME.

love.

P said...

It is really just a classic film!

valentine said...

i LOVED this movie, of course it was a teeny movie, but a lot better than some of the other ones.

controlled chaos said...

I remember doing a paper in high school about that play. I was supposed to analyze it but I was so annoyed about the whole "taming" part that I twisted my analysis just to make it seem that in the end the girl actually had the upper hand.

But anyways you do a GREAT job writing reviews...take it up as a job!
And I had mixed feelings about the movie. It was cute at parts and not so great at others

Melissa B. said...

Not just a good movie, but an EXPERIENCE! I teach high school English, and Taming of the Shrew/10 Things are part of my curriculum each year. Awesome!

Tiffany said...

this still is one of my favorite movies ever!

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