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).