10 Things I Hate About You remains a teen classic some twenty years after Touchstone Pictures first released the screwball comedy in theaters.
Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the film’s release. The film is just as fun to watch now as it was two decades ago. I credit this–of course–to the chemistry between leads Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. They are but one equation in this ensemble-heavy film.
This Taming of the Shrew retelling takes us to Washington State, where we quickly learn that Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik) is unable to date unless her older sister, Kat (Julia Stiles), does so. There’s some screwball comedy aspects at play here because new student Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is into Bianca but Bianca likes Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan). Cameron doesn’t let this get in the way but upon befriending Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz), the two come up with a plan. This plan requires getting Patrick (Heath Ledger) to date Kat. All because of Walter Stratford’s (Larry Miller) rules! This is easier said than done, of course. After all, Kat is the one student who doesn’t date!
It’s going to require some money for Patrick to date Kat. Naturally, both Cameron and Michael turn to who else but Joey. Basically, Joey’s paying Patrick money to date Kat so that he can date Bianca but doesn’t know that Cameron is crushing on Bianca. It’s good that screenwriters Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith only take the gist of a Shakespeare classic. This allows for the writers to have some flexibility with how they tell the story. It doesn’t get so crazy with following all the characters. The end result is why this film remains a high school comedy classic.
One of my favorite moments is when Patrick–in an effort to woo Kat–serenades her by singing Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” with the help of the school’s marching band. Because he ends up in detention, Kat helps break him out by flashing the teacher. This latter part probably doesn’t hold up under 2019 standards but the film is two decades old.
This begs the question of whether we watch the film with a 2019 lens or not? My vote is likely no because of when it was written. Students will likely do crazy things in the name of love. Okay, they likely would never go so far as to flash a teacher! But if it helps gets your boyfriend out of detention, anything goes.
Solid performances from an ensemble cast make 10 Things I Hate About You a solid teen comedy classic.
DIRECTOR: Gil Junger
SCREENWRITERS: Karen McCullah & Kirsten Smith
CAST: Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, Larry Miller, Andrew Keegan, David Krumholtz, Susan May Pratt, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, and Allison Janney