10 Things I Hate about You
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10 Things I Hate about You

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There is something very special about the works of William Shakespeare. His plays have resonated through the centuries largely because of the universal humanistic nature of the themes he used to weave his stories. The number of times his plays have been remade into contemporary movies is just about beyond counting. One reason some many incarnations using the same basic stories continue to have such great success is it is the responsibility of each generation to take classic literature and rework it making it their own. While the most popular plays for such treatment have traditionally included ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Macbeth’ all of the Bard’s plays are fair game including ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. One of the better known treatments has celebrated its 10th Anniversary, ’10 Things I Hate about You. Basically it is a high school teen angst flick that is more entertaining than the majority of its ilk. It is also a sample of the early career for Julia Stiles and an equally young Heath Ledger. Both would go on to far greater things most notable the late and certainly great Mr. Ledger. To be sure this movie is so loosely based on ‘Shrew’ that you might be very tempted to substitute the phrase ‘inspired by’ but that would imply inspiration that is only tangentially associated with the production of the film. This is not to say that it is a bad film, it isn’t and as mentioned is actually better than most. Of course a lot of this is attributed to energetic performances and spot on comic timing. It is difficult to believe that the movie is now a decade old but so it is and Disney / Buena Vista are not going to let an excuse for a re-issue pass by. This time out there is both a standard DVD and a new high definition release in Blu-ray.

Providing the fundamental story and script were Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith giving it a decidedly feminine point of view to the proceedings. Lutz has extensive experience in popular romantic comedies moving on to including ‘Legally Blond’, ‘Ella Enchanted’ ‘House Bunny’ eventually working on the television series based on this movie. Throughout this entire body of work Smith has worked with Lutz as partners becoming one of the genre’s most successful writing teams. With a type of film such as this having a script from two people who have worked so long together shows in how polished the end product appears. The dialogue is crisp, humor well timed and characters realistically drawn. All too many rom-coms forgo attention to such details and the quality suffers a result. The directing chores were handled by Gil Junger who has constructed an excellent career mostly with TV sit-coms from ‘Blossom’ to ‘Two Guys, A Girl and a Place’ and ‘Hope & Faith’. With a couple of decades in the business behind him and a better than usual screenplay this movie starts off with a lot going for it.

Walter Stratford (Larry Miller) is a man like many with a difficult problem; he has a pair of beautiful teenage daughters and the local boys have begun to notice. This is of course is a nightmare shared by every father around the world and throughout history. In a fashion typical for a tale of this nature the sisters are complete opposites. The younger of the two, Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) is perky, outgoing, popular and very anxious to start dating but dad has a rule that doesn’t sit well with the girl. She is not allowed to go out with a boy until her sister Kat (Julia Stiles) has a date. The problem is Kat is very seriously minded concerned more with getting into Sarah Lawrence than the frivolity of dating. While being shown around as a new student Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) takes notice of the beautiful but shallow Bianca and is immediately smitten. To his dismay he learns about the circumstances surrounding the prohibition on her dating and begins to hatch a plan. All he has to do is get Kat to accept a date and the path will be clear for him to out with Bianca. Not only is Kat uninterested in dating she relishes the idea of ruining her kid sister’s fun. The desperate boy comes up with a plan to infiltrate Kat’s life with Patrick Veron (Heath Ledger) who like Kat is an outsider and loner. Ehen the direct approach of asking Patrick fails Cameron gets another boy interested in Bianca, Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) to get Patrick to go after Kat by paying him. With the prom looming Bianca is frantic to get Kat’s social life started an, as the saying goes, mayhem ensues. The pacing is geared more for character development than a quick laugh and cut away. While the situation provides the scaffold for the story it is the character arcs as presented by this very talented cast that makes this movie work. Styles is simply perfect as the young feminist providing a breath of fresh air after so many dumb sex driven girls portrayed in almost every other film of this genre. As a counter point to her performance is that of Heath Ledger. Is a rebel without a cause for the new millennium giving the audience a peak at the versatile performances that would follow in is tragically short career. For those tired of the sex, drug and alcohol fuel teen comedies this is a smartly crafted humorous movie.

Posted 12/27/09

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