10 Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You, which was directed by Gil Junger and adapted from Shakespeare by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, attempts (again) to make Shakespeare hip by translating a version of the story of The Taming of the Shrew into — guess what! — a 1990s high school, this one in Seattle and cutely called Padua High. The Stratford sisters, Kat (Julia Stiles) and Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), are the daughters of a prominent obstetrician, played by Larry Miller, whose wife has left him and who is neurotically worried about his daughters’
dating. Fortunately, Kat wants nothing to do with boys, preferring to be left
alone with her Sylvia Plath, her feminist tracts and her female rock bands. And
the house rule is that if Kat doesn’t date then neither can her younger sister,
a boy-magnet. When Kat urges Bianca not to care so much what people think, the
latter replies: “I happen to like being adored, thank you.” A new boy in school,
Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), wants to go out with Bianca so he looks for
someone willing to approach the forbidding Kat.

The only candidate is the school wild man and bad boy, Patrick Verona (Heath
Ledger), who has recently come to the school from Australia and other places and
about whom rumors and stories of criminal and dangerous behavior are legion.
“He sold his own liver on the black
market for a new set of speakers,”
whispers one pupil who has presumably not got passing grades in biology.
Cameron, who hasn’t got the money to
subsidize Patrick’s attempts on
Kat’s feminist virtue, persuades the
school Lothario, Joey “Eat
Me” Donner (Andrew Keegan), to do it
in the belief that the fair Bianca will take advantage of her presumptive
liberation to date him, Joey, rather than nice-guy Cameron. But Cameron expects
to get in ahead of his rival by slyly getting a job tutoring Bianca in French,
though he knows no French himself.

So far the film is really rather clever, and there are some good jokes too.
Amazingly, the father is not made out to be a complete fool, and the sort of
wooing the Stratford girls seem to expect, and get, stops at kissing. Of course
dad is skeptical. “Let me tell you, kissing isn’t what’s keeping me up to my
elbows in placentas all day long,” he says. Kat also has a secret which, when it
finally comes out, suggests that she is a lot more traditionally minded than at
first she might appear — and almost too
easily susceptible to Patrick’s
patently charming charms. Of course it would be far too much to expect that the
shrew should actually be tamed, however, or give up her feminist mumbo-jumbo
about “patriarchy” in order to become the obedient consort of however charming a

In fact, it is Patrick who seems tamed by her rather than the other way
round, as he has to give up smoking and listen her favorite girl band rock
music. And somehow, one cannot imagine
Shakespeare’s Petruccio laughing his
way through a paintball battle with
Shakespeare’s Katherine. But, the
Shakespearean element in 10 Things swiftly degenerates into a few tags
and a black teacher, Mr Morgan (Daryl
Mitchell), who does a sort of rap version of part of one of the sonnets and
pronounces: “I know Shakespeare is a dead white guy, but he really knows his
s***”. How grateful Shakespeare’s
ghost must be to receive the imprimatur of hipness from such a source! But it is
a sign of the film’s fundamental
unseriousness. What it boils down to is a too-predictable high school romance
that follows very closely the none-too original path blazed for it by the recent
She’s All That.
But there is no attempt to look more deeply into the relations between man and
woman — or even boy and girl — let alone as deeply as Shakespeare does.
A pity.

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