Coming off the heels of the recently released Cruel Intentions, a teenage version of Choderlos de Laclos' Dangerous Liaisons, 10 Things I Hate About You offers up its own modernized high school-set rendering of a classic, this time with Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew.
The Bard's Katherina is reintroduced to late-20th century teens as Kat (Julia Stiles), a boy-shunning high school senior whose proclivities for Sylvia Plath and riot grrrl music convey her as an angry, intellectual feminist, which seems to be Gen X's version of a shrew. Kat's apathy towards maintaining an active social life is detrimental to her younger sister, Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), who has been forbidden by their father to date unless the elder sibling does. Here, of course, is where the Shakespearean comedy of errors begins, when Bianca's suitors, Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Joey (Andrew Keegan), come up with a scheme that entails bribing the school's reputed bad boy, Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger), to romantically pursue the unsuspecting Kat.
Largely buoyed by the well-rounded performances of Stiles and Ledger, 10 Things I Hate About You has potential appeal for audiences beyond its target teen market. Stiles' Kat is a multifaceted and contentious heroine who simultaneously exudes charm and fierceness through her sworn devotion to remaining an individual and never following the crowd. Ledger's Patrick is similarly pleasing, bringing a freshness to the tried-and-true rebellious character who really has a poetic soul and is simply misunderstood. The chemistry between these two headstrong personalities is without a doubt the most compelling aspect of the movie.
However, something is definitely rotten in the film's setting of Padua High School, and more adult viewers may be irked by some of the movie's inane moments, such as a tiresome gag involving a school counselor named Miss Perky. In between disciplining students with sarcastic one-liners, she spends her time writing bad erotica, and just in case viewers missed her first utterance of the words "throbbing member," several more penile descriptions are thrown in her seemingly endless monologues. Nevertheless, these scenes for the pre-pubescents are thankfully on the lesser side. If these few trices, along with an unfortunately weak supporting cast, can be overlooked, 10 Things I Hate About You is overall an enjoyable, good old-fashioned modernized love story.
Cast: Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik
Director: Gil Junger
Writers: Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith
Producer: Andrew Lazar
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Rating: PG-13, for mild language and sexual references.
Running time: 90 min.