Review: '10 Things I Hate About You' worth loving
March 31, 1999
By Reviewer Paul Clinton
(CNN) -- Between "Jawbreaker," "Varsity Blues," the new comedy "Go" starring Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf, Drew Barrymore's latest movie "Never Been Kissed," and now "10 Things I Hate About You," I've just about had it up to here with this current "hot" genre that explores the present-day high school experience. I even woke up yesterday with two zits and an overwhelming urge to cut gym class.
"10 Things I Hate About You" is also a member of a another genre within this current genre of teen-age high school flicks. Let's call it "Classic Literature Goes to the Movies: 101."
First, "Clueless" took on Jane Austen's timeless story "Emma" and updated it for the present day. Then Freddie Prinze, Jr. starred in "She's All That," a retooling of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion," and then we got "Cruel Intentions," based on "Dangerous Liaisons."
Now, we have a modern-day version of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" in "10 Things I Hate About You." Apparently there really are no new ideas out there -- just different ways of doing the same stories over and over again.
That said, "10 Things I Hate About You" does it pretty well. This time around the shrew is 17-year-old actress Julia Stiles playing Kat Stratford (get it, Stratford), and the taming is being done by Australian actor Heath Ledger, playing the mysterious Patrick Verona (yep, Verona). Both are excellent in these pivotal roles.
This ensemble film also features four other young actors who are all very well cast in this charming, fast paced and clever comedy of wits and wisdoms.
Actually, director Gil Junger, a talented television director making his film debut here, has bucked another odious trend in casting this sharp, character driven piece: He's filled the entire screen with fresh faces while completely avoiding the placement of any refugees from "Dawson Creek," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," or any other WB prime-time soap.
Larisa Oleynik plays Kat's younger sister Bianca who, according to a strict family rule, can't date until her older sister does. Since the sister in question is Kat, an ill-humored harridan with no interest in your average high school guy, this presents problems.
Representing the adult side of this cinematic equation is comedian-turned-actor Larry Miller. As the girl's neurotic single father Walter Stratford, he's the one who insists on the dating rule. Miller is outstanding as a father who is utterly convinced that dating is the first step towards instant and complete moral and sexual decay.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, best known for his role on the NBC sitcom "3rd Rock from the Sun," plays Cameron James, Bianca's "good guy" boyfriend-in-waiting. Andrew Keegan plays Joey Donner, an egotistical, self-centered student/model stud also lusting after young Bianca's affections. Donner, along with James, persuades Verona to take Kat out -- thereby clearing the way for Bianca to hit the dating trail.
Witty, sophisticated film, characters
Setting all the above into motion is David Krumholtz as Michael Eckman, Cameron's best friend. (You may remember Krumholtz from his wonderful performance as the brother in "The Slums of Beverly Hills.") He's got his finger in every pot in the plot and he just keeps stirring.
Character actress Allison Janney plays Ms. Perky, a school counselor who has everyone's number and harbors no illusions about anyone or anything. However, she's too busy pounding out lust-in-the-dust type pulp fiction on her word processor to actually counsel anyone.
This film is witty, sophisticated, and sometimes may be beyond the years of the characters involved, but it sends a nice message to that age group about standing up to peer pressure: It's OK to march to your own drummer. In addition, it shows a main female character who's not defined by a man or a relationship. She's independent and that's OK.
The soundtrack, available for sale, is also outstanding. Be sure to stay for the credits and hear "I Want You to Want Me." This song by Cheap Trick is covered really well by the group Letters To Cleo.
With the present deluge of teen angst films now on the market, this one is perhaps the best available in terms of plot, script, acting and direction.
"10 Things I Hate About You" is rated PG-13 with a running time of 94 minutes.
Review: 'Cruel Intentions' is crude, unusual punishment
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