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10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, 1999
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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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.
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.
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.
10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU MOVIE