The Teen Spirit

10 Things I Hate About You
USA, 1999, 97 mins.

Director

Gil Junger

Cast

Julia Stiles
as Kat Stratford

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
as Cameron James

Heath Ledger
as Patrick Verona

Larisa Oleynik
as Bianca Stratford

David Krumholtz
as Michael

Larry Miller
as Walter Stratford


Download This

The 5 Best Song from 10 Things I Hate About You

soundtrack cover

Go to your LEGAL download service of choice to get these tracks,
or
buy the CD from your local record store, or Amazon.com.

"I Want You To Want Me"

by Letters To Cleo

"Cruel To Be Kind"

by Letters To Cleo

"Your Winter"

by Sister Hazel

"Even Angels Fall"

by Jessica Riddle

"Hypnotize"

by Notorious B.I.G.

10 Things I Hate About You

Review by David Bjerre

10 Things I Hate About You
Rating
Rating 8 of 10
Designations & Trivia

Genre: Fancy Free

guything

Keywords:
Prom night, love at first sight, public humiliation by singing or dancing.

THE STORY

It's the first day of school for Cameron James, who recently transferred to the posh Padua High School. He has barely set foot in the school yard before he spots Bianca Stratford. She's popular, she's beautiful, and she's way out of his league. At least that's what his new friend (his only friend) and tutor Michael tells him, but sappy-to-the-bone Cameron will hear none of this. He must have a date with this beautiful creature, whatever it takes.

However, Bianca has the hots for the leader of the pack, Joey - wealthy, cool part-time model - who is a bit of a snake. Plus, there's an additional complication: Bianca's tempestuous sister Kat - defier of authorities, hater of boys, loather of conventions - refuses to date. She hates that whole scene and most of the boys hate her, so the girls' father thinks up a clever new house rule: Bianca can date, when Kat does.

When Cameron and Michael hear this they come up with an even more clever plan. What if they actually paid somebody to take Kat out? Then Bianca would be free to date! But who would do that? And how would they get the money to pay this person? The only one they know with this much cash to spare is Joey. Suppose they get him to bankroll this little idea, under the guise that he is going to be able to take Bianca out? And suppose they persuade outlaw, bad-to-the-bone Patrick (rumor has it he once ate a live duck) to take Kat out?

It's almost a perfect plan. Well, not entirely perfect...

10 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU

Number 1: The Attitude

From the opening credits, written in rough crayon, over the guidance counsellor, who writes smut novels in her spare time, to the downright abusive English teacher ("Some day you're gonna get bitch-slapped, and I'm not gonna do a thing to stop it") "10 Things" show little or no respect for reality or normalcy. It quickly becomes apparent that this is a film that'll bend all the rules and even break a few, to get to the finishing line.

At first sight it might be hard to believe that "10 Things" is a modern day adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew", but look closer. The scenery has changed, but many of the names remain, as does most of the plot. The writers even manage to crowbar a few shakespeare quotes into the proceedings. "I burn, I pine, I perish", Cameron laments. "Of course you do" Michael replies.

The literary legacy of the story notwithstanding, "10 Things" still allows itself to indulge in the plain weird every now and then. There are scenes here that feel like they've just landed in a UFO. You never know what's coming next. So strange, yet so wonderful.

Number 2: The Introduction of the Student Body

We're barely minutes into this film before we get to that obligatory "introduction of the student body"-scene, in which Cameron learns all about the various groupings among the students. The beautiful people ("speak only when spoken to"), the coffee kids ("no sudden movements"), the ivy leaguers ("yuppie greed is back"), and the cowboys (yes, actual cowboys). This kind of scene has been done to death, yet somehow "10 Things" manages to make it seem fresh, perhaps because the film uses it to acknowledges its teen roots, and at the same time makes fun of them.

Number 3: The Two House Rules

There wouldn't really be a story to tell here if it wasn't for the Stratford patriarch and his mantra. When Mr. Stratford first sits his daughters down to remind them of "the two house rules" he lays them down like this: "Rule number one: No dating 'till you graduate! Rule number two: No dating till you graduate!" (perhaps this is where "Fight Club" got the idea...? Maybe not) a seemingly clever way to make sure his offspring at least get an education before they get knocked up. Of course it helps to keep in mind that we are in an alternate universe where teenage girls actually listen to and respect their father.

"No drinking, no drugs, no kissing, no tattoos, no piercings, NO ritual animal slaughters of any kind!"

Nothing, though, beats Mr. Stratford's gleeful delivery of the revised house rules: "Old rule out, new rule in: Bianca can date, when Kat does". But the best part comes later when he realises his daughters have outsmarted him and all his efforts have been in vain. Suddenly he seems frail and genuinely shaken and once again the film surprises by being very real.

Number 4: The Party

Even though the sequence starts with the line: "That must be Nigel with the brie", it soon turns into the party of the decade. Of course the high-point of almost any high-school teen film, is the party. We're not talking about any old party, we're talking about the party! The party where everything happens. Not just the crazy stuff, like someone setting the dog on fire or hurling into the aquarium, but the important stuff too. Some people get together. Others break up. And despite the alcohol daze you see things clearer than you ever did before. Ever been to a party like that? It never plays out the way you thought it would, for better or worse, and "10 Things" perfectly captures that feeling.

When Cameron leaves the party, seemingly shot down by the object of his affection, he runs into Patrick who asks him a simple question: "Do you like this girl?". And while this is no St. Crispin's Day Speech, it's exactly the kick Cameron needs. Does he like this girl? Is she worth the trouble? Once again "10 Things" reveals its maturity by actually having its protagonist abandon his quest for the girl halfway through the film.

Number 5: The Dancing on the Table

Drunk to her eyeballs Kat jumps up on the table in the middle of the party, just as Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" comes on. Suddenly we get a glimpse of who Kat really is, deep down. There's literally nothing sexier in this film than Julia Stiles grinding her body and working that table. This girl's really got some nasty moves!

This also marked my personal introduction to the lyrical stylings of Biggie Smalls. You have to love a man who sings about all the important things in life... "Tits and bras, menage-a-trois, sex in expensive cars". W to the i-c-k-e-d!

Number 6: The Lead Cast

Often young actors are too aware that they are in a teen movie (just watch Larisa Oleynik), but Julia Stiles is different. She plays Kat with sincerity and dignity, and she never fakes it. She brings it in every single scene and manages to avoid reducing her character to a stereotype. Her scenes with Heath Ledger are pure and beautiful, and raise the film to a new level.

And speaking of Ledger, I think he abandoned this type of roles way too early. He could have given us a few more solid teen films before turning his attention to the hit & miss world of artsy cinema. He's simply fantastic here and he looks a lot more comfortable than he ever did in that cowboy movie.

The last of the leads worth mentioning is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he is definitely at his most goofy here. The part is not far from his Tommy Solomon persona of "3rd Rock from the Sun", but he still segues beautifully into the serious scenes when the need arises. The part was a stepping stone for his later efforts "Brick" and "The Lookout". You can tell he's going places, but not exactly where yet, and that's fascinating.

Number 7: The Supporting Cast

Now, of course an ensemble drama like this lives and breathes with the supporting characters who show up every now and then to stir things up.

First and foremost there's David Krumholtz (from "Numb3rs") as Michael, the ever-reliable comrade in arms of our hero. There's Larry Miller as the Stratford father, who simply steals every single scene he appears in, even when he's playing opposite Julia Stiles and Larisa Oleynik, dressed to the nines. Allison Janney is pure insanity as the perky Ms. Perky. Who had the brilliant idea to cast the future "West Wing" alumni in this part? Inspired! And finally there's Daryl Mitchell as Mr. Morgan. Remember him as the pilot in "Galaxy Quest"? He's such an odd choice to play a teacher, because he doesn't appear to be much older than the kids. Of course, in the twisted universe of this film that actually works.

These supporting players do exactly what they're suppose to do: They support and they make us love the leads even more.

Number 8: The Soundtrack

A good soundtrack doesn't just mean good songs, it also means finding the perfect place for them. A place so good that the song will forever be connected to the scene it plays in. That happens more than a few times in "10 Things".

A good soundtrack must also have a vibe, so that when you put the CD on it takes you on a ride through the film. Unfortunately the official soundtrack for "10 Things" is a little too eclectic and it's missing a few essential tracks, but that's easily fixed with a bit of mix and match from other cds, or perhaps a bit of legal downloading. Once this is done the playlist for "10 Things" is pure magic, it'll open on a high note with the classic "Bad Reputation" from Joan Jett, and end on an even higher note with "I Want You To Want Me", by Letters To Cleo.

The cherry on top is that classic band within a scene moment, when Letters to Cleo lead singer Kay Hanley walks up to Patrick and Kat during the performance of the band's hit single "Cruel to be Kind", in the prom sequence.

Number 9: The Poem

In a story such as this it's important to have an emotional payoff at the end. Even though most of the film is just fun and games, there has to be a real core in the story, and we have to get a sense of closure. "10 Things" cashes in on its emotional build-up in a major way in this one scene. After that disastrous prom it's once again a regular school day for the students at Padua. Today's assignment: Write your own love sonnet and read it out loud in class. When no one else volunteers Kat offers to read her poem. She gets up, stand in front of the entire class, takes a deep breath and reads the following:

"I hate the way you talk to me, and the way you cut your hair. I hate the way you drive my car. I hate it when you stare. I hate your big dumb combat boots, and the way you read my mind. I hate you so much it makes me sick; it even makes me rhyme. I hate it, I hate the way you're always right. I hate it when you lie. I hate it when you make me laugh, even worse when you make me cry. I hate it when you're not around, and the fact that you didn't call. But mostly I hate the way I don't hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all."

As Kat reads the last lines her voice breaks, and she bursts into tears. As will you if you're anything other than an empty shell with no soul. A truly surprising and touching moment.

Number 10: The End Credits

The last couple of minutes are crucial in any film. Not just because they have to deliver the payoff for the entire film, but also because they determine the mood you leave the theater with, which in turn determines how you later talk about the film.

"10 Things" ends on an absolute perfect note. The band Letters to Cleo, which we've seen earlier, is standing on top of the school building and while a helicopter circles the premise they deliver the upbeat single "I Want You to Want Me" as the credits begin to roll. And when the song is over we get that perfect little outtakes montage, beginning with Heath Ledger stealing a kiss from Julia Stiles! There's literally no better way to end a film. Perfect.

WRAP-UP

"10 Things I Hate About You" is an absolute gem of a film. It does try to squeeze a few too many story lines into its 97 minute running time (hence the two point deduction), so it'll leave you wanting on a few occasions, but that's easily forgiven. After all there are a gazillion more hits than misses here, and the bottom-line is that "10 Things I hate About You" will send you home with a big goofy grin on your face. Who would have thought The Bard had it in him?

David Bjerre, September 27th, 2007 - Send David a comment about this review.

GALLERY