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10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, 1999
Movie Review


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10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU,   MOVIE POSTER10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, 1999
Movie Reviews

Directed by Gil Junger
Starring: Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Allison Janney, Larisa Oleynik, David Krumholtz, Gabrielle Union
Review by Surinder Singh


SYNOPSIS:

A modern update of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. 10 Things I Hate About You sets itself against the contemporary backdrop of a US high school in Seattle. New kid Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and pal Michael (David Krumholtz) hatch a cunning plan to get Cameron his dream prom date Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). The plan is to fix up Bianca’s anti-social sister Kat (Julia Stiles) so their strict father (Larry Miller) will allow Bianca to go to the prom. Their hopes lie with rebel student Patrick (Heath Ledger) as the one who might just tame the shrew!

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REVIEW:

The late nineties were awash with many teen comedies all of which seemed to be worth a laugh or two but were ultimately forgettable. You felt they were worth only one watch perhaps on a date or sleepover with friends – you might call them “single-serving” movies? Fortunately there were some that were quality films. 10 Things I Hate About You is a movie that stands out from the crowd with memorable characters, strong story, hilarious humor and of course… Heath Ledger!

Ledger’s entrance to the movie is quite brilliant, he’s a rebel who’s landed himself in trouble yet again: “I was joking with the lunch lady…. it was a bratwurst.” His rough Aussie accent is refreshing and he’s handsome in a rugged way as apposed to the typical, over groomed, pretty-boy teen idols like Freddie Prince Jr. As Patrick Verona, Ledger has a presence and demeanor similar to that of Brando’s Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). Like his love interest Kat, Verona is aware of his sexuality and unlike the boys in American Pie; loosing his cherry is not a necessary motivation for him in this movie.

Cameron and Michael’s plan has a ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ quality about it managing to deceive and manipulate the opposing high school archetypes. Joey the good-looking Jock (Andrew Keegan), Bogey the Ivy League wannabe (Kyle Cease), Kat the rebel for no reason at all (Stiles) and Verona the mysterious bad-kid (Ledger) all get exploited for their social values by the two seemingly harmless nerds. But like all Shakespearean romantic comedies, the plan unravels in the final scene and the perpetrators have to answer for it! By this point we’ve also seen how far each of these characters are from their stereotype. Even a straightforward teen comedy requires characters with depth to hold our attention over the duration.

We constantly hear rumors about Verona being an ex-con, selling his own liver and eating a live duck etc. But as we get to know him we can see clearly that he’s just a harmless beach bum who isn’t interested in joining any of the social groups in the High School. Male actors who play the outsider usually get the attention over others as a ‘leading man’. The role immediately allows them to stand out and in most cases gives them more exciting things to do on screen. 10 Things certainly did this for Ledger; even though his role is a supporting one he out shines the other players effortlessly. The role of Verona adequately set him up for the subsequent leading roles in A Knight’s Tale (2001) and Ned Kelly (2003).

Gordon-Levitt’s Cameron is obviously cut from the same block as Tommy; the character he played in the TV series 3rd Rock from the Sun. It’s not a huge stretch for him as an actor taking into account his more recent roles that show what a wide range he has. We are instantly familiar with Cameron as soon as the film starts and he brings us into the film nicely. Krumholtz’s Michael is a fantastic partner in crime playing some wonderful Woody Allen gestures into his nerd. As the plan gets underway Gordon-Levitt, Krumholtz and Ledger pull off some lovely comic exchanges that are so funny even on repeat viewings: “What is it with this chick? She have beer-flavored nipples? ”

Every breakthrough role has a moment that makes the performance stick in people’s minds. A scene that stops the film and is the first thing that comes to mind whenever the film’s title is mentioned. In 10 Things that moment is when Ledger’s Verona sets himself up with a microphone and sings ‘Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You’ across the playing field. The scene is nicely set out and takes the extra time to make it a real event! Ledger smoothly slides down into view then treats us to a hilarious song and dance. This element of Ledger’s performance harks back to the days of Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly who could happily act, sing and dance in their films without a second thought. It makes you realize how this tradition is almost obsolete in recent generations of Hollywood’s leading men.

After the tragic end to Ledger’s career in January 2008, one feels compelled to revisit his body of work. 10 Things I Hate About You showed us that a teen comedy could actually be more than just a see-once date movie. Behind its simple, teen comedy faÁade, 10 Things gives us memorable characters that have depth beyond the gags. Casting new faces worked a treat to set the film apart from this crowded teen comedy genre and launched the career of a promising young Australian actor. In hindsight it’s clear to see why they chose Ledger for such a role; the filmmakers clearly knew he had lots to offer – a leading man of the future.

However bittersweet though, 10 Things I Hate About You is a great movie, one that future audiences will identify with and enjoy on repeat viewings.



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