‘The shit hath hitith the fan… ith’
It feels like once people get to a certain age, they break free of the obligation to discover new stuff and just settle into the comforting haze of nostalgia. For me, this is currently manifesting itself in a tendency to look to the ’90s for a new film to watch rather than something more recent. I suppose it is encouraging that I am at least trying to take in something I haven’t seen before, but it also feels like I am fast approaching the period in my life when I end up watching Back to the Future over and over again in my dressing gown. The dream.
And so, to 10 Things I Hate About You…
My first real experience of Heath Ledger was his seminal performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, so I have no real understanding of his days as a teen heartthrob. It may be surprising to some that I had never seen 10 Things I Hate About You before, combining, as it does, two of my favourite things in teenage romance and William Shakespeare. I think this is partly down to the clunky title and partly because I studied The Taming of the Shrew – the Shakespeare play upon which this film is loosely based – at school and hated it. Either way, as with most things in life, I was wrong about 10 Things I Hate About You.
Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) loves Bianca (Larisa Oleynik – otherwise known as Alex Mack from The Secret World of Alex Mack). Bianca is more interested in the douchebag Joey (Andrew Keegan). Meanwhile, Bianca is not allowed to date anyone unless her shrewish sister Kat (Julia Stiles) is also dating someone. Cameron and his pal Michael (David Krumholtz), devise a plan that involves paying off the local bad boy Patrick (Heath Ledger) to date Kat so that Cameron can date Bianca. Complicated stuff for a man with a monkey brain such as myself.
Whilst the starry cast obviously helps, the key to the success of 10 Things I Hate About You lies in the witty script and the chemistry between Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. Two genuinely great talents who clearly feed off each other throughout. The script is properly funny and smart, although it falls flat when trying to integrate lines directly from The Taming of the Shrew, each time with a clang that is almost audible.
The ’90s were a bit of a golden age for teen comedies, eventually culminating in the iconic American Pie. Five months before that cultural behemoth was released, 10 Things I Hate About You also dropped in cinemas. Both are excellent in their own way.