TL;DR – A joy to watch from start to finish
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
A while ago when I was writing my Top 10 Films of All Time, I mentioned that one of the contenders for the list was 10 Things I Hate About You. To this day, I keep going back and forth on that list and how that would probably be one of the changes I would make. With this in mind, and because I was feeling a bit glum, today I cracked open the TV put out a cheese platter and dived back into this seminal film from my youth, and boy does it still hold up.
So to set the scene, we open in on Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a new student at Padua High School as he is shown around all the groups and hierarchies by Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz). It is here where he spies the enchanting Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik) and is immediately entranced. The one small catch (other she has no idea who he is) is that it is widely known that the Stratford sisters can’t date. Well, all that changes when Walter Stratford (Larry Miller), Bianca’s dad changes the rule, Bianca can date when her sister Kat (Julia Stiles) dates. This sets off a chain reaction that involves bad boy Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger), local cashed-up rich boy Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) and a school formal that goes disastrously wrong.
I love that the film feels immersed in its world and time. This is a film grounded in that period around the turn of the millennium. The music, the clothes, and the world lives and breathes this time in a way that it almost can be a time capsule. As someone who grew up in this time, it is a nostalgic blast to the past.
I love that the cast is such a delight. This film would not work as well as it does if the cast was not here for it in every way. You can always tell a film where everyone is having fun making it and you see some of that in the outtakes they put in the credits because that is 100% where we used to put the outtakes in comedy films. Whether it is Allison Janney who plays the most oddball guidance councillor in film Ms Perky, or how teenagers can coordinate a full-scale party at little notice it is just a joy.
I love that the characters grow throughout the film. When you go back and rewatch this film the 50 or so times I have seen it, the one thing you notice is that this if a film about growth. Everyone character starts this film as a two-dimensional stereotype, and not in really a good way. However, as the film goes on, those two-dimensional characters grow in-depth, well okay not Joey, but literally everyone else.
I love that the camera has a voice of its own. This film did not need to be this well shoot to be made, you didn’t need a rotating camera looking up as party invitations slowly fall down the stairwell as hands reached out. You didn’t need big booms (because this was the age before drones) swinging across the neighbourhood pulling into the house, or a one-take tour of the schoolyard. Mark Irwin’s cinematography is 100% extra in this film and I am here for it.
I love that the music choices are not an afterthought. In so many modern films that lean more towards musical soundtracks rather than musical scores, the musical choices feel like an afterthought, an arbitrary decision. Well not here. Every song feels like a choice that is integral to the film and how it is presented. Yes it is of its time, so it leans heavily into scar, pop, and alternative rock, but that is just another way it locates its time but also its place in Seattle. I mean, when the film ends on a rock band having a blast on top of the high school, it works because the film earned it.
I love that Heath’s smile can light up a room. Goodness, what a talent he was. That charm is infectious, that smile a true delight. When he is singing his embarrassment song that joy radiates out of the screen and you can’t help but sit there with a smile on your face. Oh vale Heath Ledger, you were taken too soon.
I love how quotable the script is. There are some films whose script is so tight that ever line is golden. This means that is filled with moments and lines that pop into your head in the years to come. “That must be Nigel with the brie.”; “Alright, wait a minute. No drinking, no drugs, no kissing, no tattoos, no piercings, *no* ritual animal slaughters of any kind. Oh, God, I’m giving them ideas.”; “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?” “I think you can in Europe.”.
I love how on point the location scout was. Seriously, can you think about how this film would work without the amazing verticality that is Padua High School which is the real Stadium High School in Tacoma, Washington. Can you imagine how this film would work if this was not filmed at the school with the oval situated below the school proper? This gives you these wonderfully framed shots that allow you to have this amazing depth to every shot. Filming in an actual school helps ground the film, and given my understanding that there are no sets in this film (everything is shot on location), every location working as well as it does is a real find.
I love how it brings Shakespeare kicking and screaming out of the 16th century. I don’t think it a stretch to say that Shakespeare is one of the most influential writers in the western canon and to this day I think he has the most credits of IMDB. But he was writing in the 16th century and so much has changed since then. So few women characters in Shakespeare’s work have any real agency, even in his comedies that have better representation than his dramas. So while this is based off the play Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You (say those two titles back to back) takes that work and elevates it by giving everyone the agency they deserve. The film also wears its love for Shakespeare on its sleeve with almost every name in the film being some sort of reference to the Bard and his works. This creates a dichotomy that makes everything better for it.
I love how Kat’s speech is the emotional punch to the gut the film needs. If there is one focus for the film, one moment that hits harder than any other, it is Kat’s speech at the end. Besides being the literal 10 things in the title of the film, it is the emotional centre of everything that comes before and everything that comes after. The film would not have worked without this moment and it shows the power of Julia Stiles because that was filmed in one take and ever line is steeped in emotion.
In the end, do we recommend 10 Things I Hate About You? I think you can guess my answer, but of course so. This is one of those timeless films for me and I know part of that is probably some nostalgia for an era gone by. But I deeply love this film, its joy, its sadness, its highs, its lows, its depths, and its times that Bianca punched Joey Donner in the face.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of 10 Things I Hate About You
Directed by – Gil Junger
Written by – Karen McCullah & Kirsten Smith
Based on – The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
Music by – Richard Gibbs
Cinematography by – Mark Irwin
Edited by – O. Nicholas Brown
Production/Distribution Companies – Touchstone Pictures & Buena Vista Pictures
Starring – Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, David Krumholtz, Larry Miller, Andrew Keegan, Susan May Pratt, Gabrielle Union, Daryl Mitchell, Allison Janney, David Leisure, Greg Jackson and Kyle Cease with Letters to Cleo & Save Ferris
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: 12; United States: PG-13