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Classic Film Through a Feminist Lens: Love With a Proper Stranger

Love with the Proper Stranger

Sometimes there’s a film where all the stars seem to align. Love with the Proper Stranger is not a message picture. Rather, the film is an example where subject matter, star persona, and historical significance all combine to make an important movie. The drama holds a vital place in the cinema of the pre second wave feminist era.

The film follows Angie Rossini (Natalie Wood) and Rocky Papasano (Steve McQueen). The two characters struggle with the consequences of a drunken one night stand. In fact, when Angie tells Rocky about her pregnancy, he has difficultly even remembering who she is.

Angie is a young department store sales girl, bursting under the pressure of her crowded, close-knit Italian upbringing. She feels stifled. She expresses frustration that her family doesn’t care what her brother Guido (Harvey Lembeck) does. However, they are fiercely protective of her. She says,

Don’t love me so much! I can’t breathe… Every day you meet me in the truck. 3 or 4 times a week you take me to lunch. You follow me around on dates, you pick out my boyfriends. Why don’t you protect Guido? Take him to lunch!

Angie’s mother (Penny Santon) says, “Guido’s a boy! Who cares what he does!”. This pressure contributes to Angie’s acting out. Rocky and Angie’s one night stand, as well as the resulting pregnancy, have already happened as the film opens.

The film, which was released on Christmas Day of 1963 comes at a period in popular culture when the subject abortion was just starting to become slightly less taboo as a topic of conversation. Books like “Revolutionary Road” and television series like The Defenders were starting to show a more realistic portrayal of abortion, as well as the often life threatening danger women who underwent the procedure experienced st this time in history.

Love with the Proper Stranger has a hard-hitting, but realistic account of abortion in the early 1960s. Angie is brought to a rundown apartment to have the procedure. It’s far from medical. Instead of an exam room, it’s going to happen on a dirty mattress on the floor. Angie undresses slowly on screen, her anxiety gradually growing. The scene is difficult to watch. Rocky eventually pulls her from the room before she can undergo the procedure.

Love with the Proper Stranger is an unconventional romance. When Angie recovers from the ordeal of the abortion, a protective, but reluctant Rocky wants to marry her. Angie says no:

Even though you don’t want to marry me, you’re willing to do it anyway… I know this may come as a shock to the both of you, but underneath all this hair and skin is a human girl with all the regular things going for me, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life married to a man who’s doing me a big favor! I made a mistake… but that doesn’t mean I have to ruin my whole life and his, and the baby’s!

Wood is dynamic in the sequence, and take the active focus, before terminating the conversation herself. Her brother and Rocky are speechless, unable to comprehend her agency in the face of everything going on in her life.

While surprisingly little is written about her lengthy (but still tragically cut-short) career, Natalie Wood is an actress who’s film choice and star persona is deeply indicative of the era just before the onset of second wave feminism. The actress started in Hollywood at the age of five, and was a mainstay on movie screens for almost forty years. Had it not been for her premature death at the age of 43, Wood could have made films for decades more.

The most interesting part of Wood’s career begins during her teen years and lasts through her early twenties. Coming in 1963, Love with the Proper Stranger falls squarely within this period. At this time, Natalie Wood was making some of her most interesting and adventurous film choices.

During this period, Wood made films like Marjorie Morningstar, Splendour in the Grass and West Side Story. In each of these movies, Wood plays young women straining against the societal expectations of sexuality and love placed on her by the older generation. This is deeply representative of Wood as an actress. She is often quoted talking about her childhood in Hollywood, “I had worked as a child and I had always done as I was told… I was a rather dutiful child…”. This lead to her expanding her roles, and taking these unconventional parts as she became an adult. Very much like the growing movement towards second wave feminism, Wood was learning to define herself against the expectations placed on her by society.

However, Love with the Proper Stranger struggles with its ending. As with a number of films examined in this series, the movie reverses course in the last few minutes. As the film ends, and Angie seemingly melts over Rocky’s “Better Wed than Dead” street performance, they kiss passionately. They seem to be moving towards a turbulent, but exciting relationship. And the question of the pregnancy is noticeably absent. However, this drastic change in tone does not detract from the narrative of the film. Love with the Proper Stranger remains an important, vital film to post World War II Hollywood cinema.

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Classic Film Through a Feminst Lens: White Christmas

White Christmas

The 1950s is the golden age for Hollywood musicals. White Christmas stands as one of the classics, alongside films like: Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, and Gigi. The glossy and well made movie features not only catchy songs, but well-developed characters which audiences are quickly able to care about. Unlike the movies listed above, the romantic relationships in White Christmas are not the main focus. Rather, the pairings of Judy and Betty Haynes, as well as army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, are more important to the narrative. The film treats its’ characters in an equal fashion, as it stresses the important themes of friendship and loyalty.

White Christmas follows former World War II veterans Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye). Wallace is a prominent Broadway song and dance man, and Davis is a burgeoning performer and songwriter. So, of course the men team up once their service in Europe concludes. Their climb to success is quick. Wallace and Davis receive a letter from one of their former army buddies, Benny Haynes “The Dog Faced Boy”. In the letter, Benny asks them if they would go see his sisters’ nightclub act, and give the girls some pointers.

Wallace and Davis visit the Haynes Sisters, where they work as a floor show at a Florida supper club. Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy (Vera-Ellen) are a couple of career minded women, interested in making their act better. They strike up a quick relationship with Wallace and Davis. The two men help them escape from a crooked landlord, giving them train tickets to Vermont, where they will be playing over the holidays.

Bob and Phil follow Betty and Judy up to the Columbia Inn. Arriving at the intimate hotel, they discover the manager is their old boss from their army days (Dean Jagger). The adorable lodge is suffering financially, blaming the trouble on a lack of snow in “New England’s Snow Playground”. The performers work their magic, staging a heartwarming effort to help out their old friend with Christmas fast approaching.

Betty and Judy stand out as sisters and performers in their own right, not simply love interests for the leading men. The film passes the Bechdel Test. Betty and Judy have a number of conversations about their career, as well as their relationship, not simply the men in their lives.

In fact, the film features equal treatment between the two male and the two female leads. Before they even meet the Haynes sisters, Phil wants Bob to find himself a girl. “I want you to get married. I want you to have 9 children. Even if you only spend 5 minutes with each kid, that’s 45 minutes all to myself…”. So, when Bob immediately hits it off with Betty, Phil goes into match-making overdrive. This drive to marriage is usually a quest for female characters during this era. Interestingly, Judy has a similar relationship with her sister. Judy tells Phil that Betty has always been a “Mother Hen”, and that she wouldn’t leave the roost until Judy was “taken care of”and married. Phil and Judy’s matchmaking efforts are important to the narrative, and are responsible for the misunderstandings which are ultimately craft the story.

The bond between the sisters in the movie is strong. Halfway through the film, Judy and Phil get engaged, hoping to encourage Betty and Bob to start a relationship. Rather than being excited for Judy, Betty is heartbroken at the thought of loosing her sister and breaking up the act. There’s a powerful scene as the sisters sit in bed. Judy tells Betty that’s she’s now free to go ahead and do what she wants. Betty lays in bed, listening to everything her sister says. She feigns sleep, tears running down her cheeks. Yet, Betty surprises everyone. Rather than running to Bob’s waiting arms, Betty moves to New York City. Breaking up the act herself, she signs on for a solo run at The Carousel Club.

Bob follows Betty to New York, hoping to get her back. He goes to the Carousel Club and watches the sultry Betty perform “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me.” She wears an amazing dress and is surrounded by a group of male dancers. Clooney shines in the sequence as the film gives her a stage to do what she does best, belt out a sultry torch song. The lyrics of the song parallel the narrative, “My one love affair, didn’t get anywhere from the start/ To send me a Joe, who had winter and snow in his heart, wasn’t smart.” Betty, who is aware that Bob is in the audience, tries to change her song before going on. She pleads to her bandleader, “Play Blue Skies… Anything.” Betty goes on and sings her heart out, knowing full well that Bob is in the audience, hoping to get her back.

Eventually, Betty comes back on her own terms. Returning to the Inn, the most important reunion is with her sister. The scene is a quick one, and the camera cuts to an intimate close-up as the two women embrace tenderly. Meanwhile, Bob and Betty’s reunion happens on-stage, as the characters sing “Gee, I Wish I was Back in the Army”. As Betty enters with Judy, this is the first time Bob sees her. The only clue to this is in Wallace’s face. The moment is well acted by Crosby. He spins around as he sees Betty, briefly pulled out of his performance by his glee at her entrance. However, the moment is a small one, of the blink and you could miss it caliber.

White Christmas is a beautiful and heartwarming musical from the golden age of Hollywood cinema. While the film has come to be defined by the timeless title song, White Christmas is a strong movie all the way through. It has vibrant characters and well-developed relationships. It also refuses to loose itself in the romance. Rather, it builds the relationship between sisters Betty and Judy Haynes just as much as the coupled pairings.

Did You Know:

Rosemary Clooney is George Clooney’s aunt. Clooney was a popular singer during the post WWII era, and reportedly sung for both Betty and Judy. While Vera-Ellen was a tremendously talented dancer, she was not a strong singer.

Look for a very young George Chakiris dancing in the “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” music number. Chakiris is best known for his portrayal of Bernardo in West Side Story.

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Classic Film Through a Feminist Lens: Come September

Come September

Mother Nature’s a clever gal

She relies on habits 

Take two hares with no cares 

Pretty soon you have a room full of rabbits 

The lyrics above from the Bobby Darin song “Multiplication” crafts a clear image of the tone of the 1961 sex comedy Come SeptemberThe film is up-front and open in its’ treatment of sex. The narrative comes from a number of points of view. Not only does it show the prevailing views of sex coming out of the early 1960s, but also the rapidly changing ideas taking root with the younger audiences. However, a deep dive into Come September shows there are definite problems with the narrative, particularly relating to gender and the crafting of film’s lead Robert Talbot (Rock Hudson).

Come September features Rock Hudson as American Robert Talbot. Every September he travels to Italy to spend time in his villa. While there, he also enjoys the company of his gorgeous Italian mistress, Lisa Fellini (Gina Lollobrigida). However, when he travels to Italy one July, he learns that nothing is quite as it seems. For 11 months out of the year, his servant Maurice (Walter Slezak) runs a hotel out of his villa. Even worse, it turns out that Lisa is bored. She has all but given up on the relationship and is preparing to marry another man.

Talbot finds himself surrounded by a group of American students, who he’s unable to kick out of his villa. There’s a group of girls (led by Sandra Dee) staying while their guide recovers from a back injury. Joining the fun is a group of boys (led by Bobby Darin). As the film develops, the youngsters begin to pair off. Robert takes it upon himself to discredit the boys, hoping to protect the girls from their wolfish behavior. He does everything in his power to get the girl’s to remain abstinent, despite his sexual relationship with Lisa. Talbot even tells one girl, “The bedroom is like your wedding gown. It’s bad luck to let a fella see you in it before you’re married.”

The film has a varied and diverse female cast lead by Italian siren Lollobrigida and American teen star Sandra Dee. Sandy (Dee) is a college student studying to be a therapist. Lisa’s background is not as developed, but she’s a strong, smart and independent woman. However, she has one weakness: Talbot. Despite her engagement, it only takes one call from Talbot for Lisa to give up everything and go to his villa with less than 1 day’s notice. Talbot tells her, “Anything you have couldn’t possibly be that important. Pack your bags, and catch the 1:20.” Lisa manages to not only pack her bags, but also dumps her fiancee over lunch before catching the train to the villa the same day.

Come September makes a statement on the idea of the ugly western tourists, though it is debatable how intentional this is. Talbot makes this clear during the above conversation with Lisa. His total disregard for her life (and her willingness to run to him) is infuriating. Furthermore, there is the problematic treatment of the college girls, and the fascination with their virginity. Yet, Talbot is more than willing to enjoy Lisa’s sexuality. They see each other one month a year. Is it believable to make Robert and Lisa’s a romantic couple? Or is it simply an example of a wealthy American tourist enjoying everything the country has to offer.

Later, Lisa has lunch with Spencer (Ronald Howard). As they talk about cancelling the wedding, he says, “I had the deuce of a job convincing them that it’s the accepted thing for an Englishman to marry a foreigner”. Lisa does however get a jab in, “Here in Italy, I am not the foreigner. You and your sisters are the foreigners”. Looking thought the film, the ugly tourism seems limited to the older male characters (namely, Talbot). The college students make more of an effort to blend into the Italian culture. Many of them attempt to speak Italian, while Talbot refuses to learn the language. They are completely at ease with the country as they tour various Italian locations.

Lollobrigida (like her contemporaries Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot) packs a powerful and free sexuality in her screen persona, which was rare in Hollywood performers of the time. This is especially evident when looking at Lollobrigida contrasted with Sandra Dee, who bordered on virginal in many of her early roles. Even in A Summer Place, when her character get’s pregnant through pre-marital sex, she’s very much labeled a “good girl”. Remember the Grease song, “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee?” That refers to Dee.

Rewatching the 1961 sex comedy Come September, the film stands as a problematic one. Many of the problems hinge on the intentions behind Robert Talbot. While his relationship with Lisa is ultimately built as a romantic connection; it results from an affair they conduct one month out of the year. It is his needs that come first throughout the film. Thus, Talbot cancels out any the progressive elements in Come September. He’s very much a character of his time.

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Classic Film Through a Feminist Lens: Cat Ballou

Cat Ball

She has the smile of an angel (Fights like the devil) 

The eyes of an angel (Bites like the devil) 

The face of an angel (I say she’s the devil) 

She’s mean and evil through and through

Cat Ballou has an unconventional opening. We open on an old west city street in the 1890s. The primary focus is the “Shouters” (Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye). They play their instruments and sing the very “old timey” title song. It shows that this is an unconventional film. Cat Ballou is very different from the westerns which came before it. The film seems to point towards the revisionist westerns which would follow in the coming decades.

Cat Ballou follows Catherine Ballou (Jane Fonda) a schoolteacher recently returned to her home town of Wolf City Wyoming. While she’s home, Cat learns her Father (John Marley) is embroiled in a land battle. Local contractors are pressuring Frankie to sell his land. The stubborn man refuses, and is shot outside his house by Tim Strawn (Lee Marvin). As a result of her grief, the distraught seeks out to avenge her Father. With nowhere else to go, she teams up with a rag-tag group of old west characters. There’s the drunken gunfighter Kid Shelleen (also Lee Marvin), outlaw Clay Boone (Michael Callan), Boone’s uncle Jed (Dwayne Hickman) and her father’s former ranch hand, Jackson Two-Bears (Tom Nardini) making up the outlaw gang.

Westerns featuring a woman in an active lead role are seemingly rare until the mid-1960s. There are a few films which stand against the norm: Johnny Guitar and The Furies come to mind, as well as musicals like Annie Get Your Gun and Calamity Jane. However, men largely dominated the genre. In Cat Ballou, Catherine begins as a meek and timid schoolteacher. However, the death of her father starts her on a drastic transformation as she starts on revenge narrative to bring down Sir. Harry Percival (Reginald Denny). While the film is a Bechdel Test fail, it is purely due to the lack of other female characters in the film. Cat is a woman in a man’s world, and she seems to thrive that way.

There is a surprising lack of sexualization of Cat within the narrative. At the beginning of the film, Catherine is a stereotypically chaste schoolteacher. As she evolves into the outlaw gang leader, she dresses largely like the boys. There are only a handful of times after her father’s death where she is seen in a dress. The most notable is as as she finally tracks down Sir Percival, and uses her sexuality to get close to him.  The second time occurs while Cat is in prison. There is a thin romantic plot line with Clay, but the promise of sex is largely absent. The  two remain seemingly chaste, the focus remaining first and foremost on Cat’s revenge quest.

The most apparent sexualization of Cat is outside of the narrative, and in the film’s advertising. The posters often show star Fonda bent over and standing spread eagled in a very suggestive manner. In some of the artwork, she wears a particularly low-cut dress she never wears in the film. In some of the advertising, she holds her gun in an overtly sexual position. Coming in 1965, Cat Ballou was a few years before Fonda’s star making (and sexually charged) roles in films like Barbarella and Klute. The film’s marketing likely isn’t capitalizing on Fonda’s star persona. While she was a talented up-and-comer at the time, her most popular roles were still to come.

The film features some stellar performances by not only the supremely talented Jane Fonda, but also the diverse and equally talented group of character actors backing her up. As was stated earlier, Marvin won an Oscar for his against type, comedic turn as Shelleen. Dwayne Hickman also shines in his supporting role as Jed. Hickman is best known for his 4 year run in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis

As with a number other films we’ve looked at in this series, the film seems to almost reverse itself in the end. Remember, everything is a product of its time in history. The film concludes with Cat about to hang for her crimes. She stands on the platform with the noose around her neck, but her gang stages an escape. As they swoop in to save the day, Cat drops into the waiting funeral wagon, and she and Clay ride off into the sunset. As they kiss and recline on the white satin of the funeral wagon, it’s reminiscent of a couple riding off after their wedding. The wagon might as well have tin cans dangling from the back of it.

Cat Ballou is a unique, comedic western which came out of the mid-1960s. The film, which spotlights the female leader of an gang of old west outlaws, is rare in the classic Hollywood era. The movie, despite some minor problems, is incredibly fun, and gives a hint to the more progressive, revisionist westerns which became more popular into the late 1960s and 1970s.

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Classic Film Through a Feminist Lens: One, Two, Three.

One, Two, Three

The subject of the Cold War was a common one in the cinema of the middle 20th century. However, there were precious few Cold War comedies. One, Two, Three stands as one of the few (along with Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb). The film is a fun and interesting one, dealing not only with issues of sex and gender but politics as well. However, with a closer analysis, the fifty-five year old film proves to be problematic.

The film follows C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney), an upper level Coca-Cola executive living with his family in West Berlin during the early 1960s. His comfortable routine is thrown into chaos when he is forced to baby sit his boss’ seventeen year old daughter Scarlett (Pamela Tiffin). However, when Scarlet sneaks out one night, she comes back pregnant (and married!) to a young Communist Otto Piffl (Horst Buchholtz). And the zany, madcap efforts to hide the pregnancy begin.

One, Two, Three hit theaters in December of 1961. It is one of a number of films dealing with teen pregnancy in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The pregnancy melodrama was common place during this period. Films like: A Summer Place, Susan Slade and Blue Denim are three examples of the sub genre. Each of which feature a teenage girl who’s “in trouble,” and follows the drama which follows “her mistake”.  One, Two, Three is a rare comedy dealing with the taboo subject matter in the post World War II period.

There are three female characters in the film: Scarlett, Mrs. MacNamara (Arlene Francis) and Fraüline Ingaborg (Liselotte Pulver). There is very little interaction between the three women. The only conversations are between Mrs. MacNamara and Scarlett, and they revolve completely around Otto and the baby, so the Bechedel test score is a fail.

The film’s treatment of sex is an interesting one. The taboo pregnancy is made slightly more acceptable by the initial revelation of Scarlett and Otto’s marriage. So, the sex was not “necessarily” pre-marital. However, the subject of Mr. MacNamara’s marital infidelities is thinly veiled. There are repeated references to his after-hours language lessons with his secretary (Fraüline Ingaborg). When it has been a while between “lessons”, she says, “You’ve lost all interest in the umlaut”. This is not the only time in the script when the word “umlaut” appears to be standing in for sex.

As Mrs. MacNamara, Arlene Francis is in rare form. The actress was a television mainstay during the 1950s and 1960s. She featured regularly on What’s My Line. Francis is considered to be the first woman to host a game show. She hosted Blind Date from 1943-1952, starting on the radio and transitioning the series to television. In One, Two Three, her character largely on an even keel with her husband. They two characters share witty banter which harkens back to radio couples like Jack Benny and Mary Livingston.

The film is a tour de force for Cagney who is in rare form. The normally dynamic performer reaches a whole new level as he tackles Billy Wilder‘s iconic (and always amazing) dialogue at an almost breakneck pace. It’s a stellar performance from one of Hollywood’s greats. At the time of the film’s release, Buchholz was a relative new comer to Hollywood. He made his Hollywood debut in The Magnificent Seven just a year before. The young actor shines in the role, and thrives as he goes toe to toe with the formidable Cagney.

One, Two Three is a small, but entertaining comedy from the cinematic genius of Billy Wilder. The film is a product of its time. While it tackles the subject of a taboo teenage, unplanned pregnancy; however, the treatment of gender and sexuality manages to be problematic. It is especially problematic in the development of the female characters. If you’re in any way a fan of classic cinema, or Billy Wilder, it’s well worth the price of a rental.

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Classic Film Through a Feminist Lens: Where the Boys Are

.Where the Boys Are

The early years of the 1960s conjure a very specific image in US popular culture. The classic teen film Where the Boys Are is a complicated one. The gorgeous and polished studio picture shows a more layered society as it relates to gender and sexuality than is commonly associated with the early 1960s.

The story follows midwestern college students Merritt (Delores Hart), Tuggle (Paula Prentiss), Melanie (Yvette Mimieux) and Angie (singer Connie Francis in her first film role). As the film opens, the girls plan their escape from the snowy confines of their university for Spring Break, and fun in the sun in Ft. Lauderdale.

When they arrive, they pair off with four boys. There’s Ryder (George Hamilton), TV (Jim Hutton), Basil (Frank Gorshin) and Franklin (Rory Harrity).

One of the most interesting elements in Where the Boys Are begins early in the first act. In one of the opening scenes, Merritt and Melanie sit through their “Courtship and Marriage” class. It’s cute, quaint and in gorgeous Metrocolor. The narrative morphs quickly as the elderly professor quizzes the class about “Random Dating”. Called out to answer the question, Merritt responds:

Frankly, I thought the text was a little old fashioned. It didn’t have much to do with modern college life as far as I can see…If a girl doesn’t make out with a man once in a while, she might as well leave campus. She’s considered practically anti-social.

The scene delves even further into the taboo topic. Merritt goes on, “…Should a girl, or should she not play house before marriage… my answer is yes!”.  This film debuted in December 1960. Putting this in historical context, Betty Friedan’s landmark book “The Feminine Mystique” hit book stores in 1963, setting the jumping off point for second wave feminism in the post WWII period.

The girls are the main characters in the film. Viewers are introduced to the story through their perspective. The four boys are then introduced as potential love interests. Interestingly, the lists of male led films the years are prominent, but it’s harder to find female led stories. In fact, pop culture in 2016 was dominated by things like, “Where’s Rey?”, the question of wether four female ghostbusters could open a film, and the box-office surprise that accompanied Bad Moms. From Angie, the musically inclined captain of the girl’s hockey team, to the 5’10” Tuggle, who simply wants to date a man with feet bigger than hers, these are unique  and interesting female characters who are able to stand on their own two feet.

Historians say that it’s impossible pull a work out of the time in which it was made. While the story features some noted progressiveness, the ending is a dated. It is 1960 after all. It features an almost tacked on trope, as the “fallen” Melanie is saved by the group after a likely rape. The innocent Melanie spent her time at the beach tumbling into a pit of alcohol and drugs. There has to be a lesson somewhere.

Where the Boys Are is a unique film, especially for its time period. Coming just before the release of “The Feminine Mystique,” there are elements of the movie which seem surprisingly progressive for its time. The film’s narrative shows a complicated (and not entirely negative) view of sex, as well as features four unique and individual female leads in starring roles. In a contemporary Hollywood climate which still has difficulty believing a woman can open a film, this makes Where the Boys Are  a gem, and definitely a must see for any fan of classic cinema.

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Nostalgia, Duh!: 10 Things I Hate About You

Perhaps I’m a 90’s kid with a penchant toward nostalgia; however, the teen films of the era are some of my favorites. One of the greatest of these to come out of the 1990s, is 1998’s 10 Things I Hate About You.

The film is a contemporary take on the Shakespearean play The Taming of the Shrew, and follows the romantic exploits of sisters Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) and Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles). Due to the decree of their Father (Larry Miller) , the popular Bianca can’t date until her older sister does. However, there’s one problem. Hardcore Kat is an artistic, Sylvia Plath reading feminist who has no intention of dating. In order to ask out Bianca (the girl of his dreams!) Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) orchestrates bad boy Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) to ask out ‘the shrew’.

10 Things I Hate About You is a veritable trip down memory lane as it features a pre almost everything Joseph Gordon-Levitt (not counting Independence Day, and 3rd Rock from the Sun) as well as a pre Save the Last Dance and The Bourne Identity Julia Stiles. The film also stands as the first starring role for Heath Ledger, who had recently come to Hollywood after making a name for himself on Australian television. Finally, all 90’s kids will remember Alex Mack… er Larisa Oleynik. The actress was riding a career high after making a name for herself in The Secret Life of Alex Mack, which was a prominent part of the 90’s “Snick” (Saturday night Nickelodeon) line-up.

The film features a soundtrack which still stands as a classic even 18 years after the film’s release (damn… I feel old). The movie features a number of catchy tunes which an untrained musical ear (…guilty…) would classify as 90’s alternative. Or  of the “angry girl, indie persuasion” as Cameron calls it in the film. Letters to Cleo’s cover of cover of “I Want You to Want Me” opens the album,  and enjoyable tunes are scattered throughout.


The female characters portrayed in the film (particularly Kat and Bianca) are developed and relatable. What is even more admirable for a film like this, is neither character will take crap from anyone particularly Joey (Andrew Keegan). Throughout the narrative Kat is constantly saying telling Bianca that it’s important for her to do something for herself, not for anyone else. Even more refreshing, the characters sticks to those beliefs throughout the film and don’t waver. Having not watched the film for a while, Bianca’s final scene with Joey is perfectly staged. “That’s for making my date bleed! That’s for my sister! That’s for me!”. The sisters are both strong in their own way, and stand out in a genre which isn’t always known for the strength of its’ characters.

Furthermore, there’s little if anything in this film that doesn’t work. The character actions and motivations are not only remarkable consistent, but the kids are allowed to stand out as unique and interesting characters. Susan May Pratt and David Krumholtz don’t get nearly enough love for their fun portrayals of Michael and Mandella, the best friends of our leads.


The couple, who end up going to prom in full Shakespearean outfits are a whole other level of adorable. Very few secondary couples in teen films are as developed and fleshed out. With only a few minor tweaks, you could pull the narrative out of a high school, cast adults and the film would still work.

For a movie that is almost 18 years old, 10 Things I Hate About You is a teen film which stands up remarkably well to the passage of time. In fact, if it wasn’t for the continuing success of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the well publicized death of Heath Ledger, the film could play like a much more contemporary film. If you are any way a film of these actors, or teen films as a genre, this is a must see.

10 Things I Hate About You is currently available on Netflix.

Andrew Keegan or Devon Sawa? (Kids, ask your parents).