10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
In this modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew set in a high school, Kat (Julia Stiles, the shrew in the title) is unpopular, not very nice, and prefers to stay that way. But when Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger), with ulterior motives, tries to charm her out of her bitchy ways, they end up (surprise!) falling for each other.
WHY I LOVE IT
“I burn, I pine, I perish.”
In the late 90′s there was a gluttony of teenage comedies. They all sucked. Except this one. A ray of sunshine amidst a sea of dreck, 10 Things I Hate About You has surprising depth, a myriad of breakout stars and more laughs than any comedy released that year.
Let’s talk about the stars. We all had heard of Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles when this was released, but this is where people finally took notice. They both oozed charisma (admittedly, more him than her), and they both carved very respectable career paths since then. Ledger – like the late River Phoenix before him – was a hot flame of talent and acting chops before he left us too soon. Here he was arrogantly charming – it was as if he was forcing us to like him even though he really didn’t have to. He already had us at hello. Stiles had some strong projects in her career and became a respected young actress, but her Kat Stratford is still her best work. Teen angst has been done to death in cinema for years and years, but her Kat is a delightful bitch that we’d love to spar with (“Remove head from sphincter, then drive!”).
Also making huge impressions here are Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a big role that should have made him a star. He’s so genial and charming as Cameron, the young lad who had fallen for Kat’s dreamy sister Bianca (played by the absolutely adorable Larisa Oleynik). Throw in the hilarious David Krumholdtz as Cameron’s clueless best buddy (“I have a dick on my face, don’t I?”), Larry Miller as Kat and Bianca’s sweetly overprotective father (who makes his daughters wear a pregnancy suit before their dates to keep them from having sex) and the great Allison Janney as a principal in the midst of penning a racy novel (“Bratwurst? Aren’t we the optimist?”).
I’ve always stated that 10 Things was my rainy day movie, the one movie I can watch whenever I’m feeling blue. It’s a guaranteed pick-me-up. The screenplay is smart, knowing and frequently hilarious, and while it is certainly as conventional as its counterparts (you know exactly how it will all pan out), it surprises you with its emotional sucker punch of a climax. Kat’s poetry reading in her class is beautifully poignant (“But mostly I hate the way that I don’t hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.”)
I love you, 10 Things I Hate About You. To paraphrase Kat Stratford, you’re not as vile as I thought you were.