10 Things I Hate About You (1999) — Bard re-tuning

“My insurance doesn’t cover PMS!”

Kyle’s review: There is really one thing I hate about the excellent film 10 Things I Hate About You, a teen-centric modern re-telling of William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” When I was in high school this witty little film was nowhere in sight, so I was forced to read the play in its unexciting prose glory without the benefit of beautiful young girls as eye-candy reciting the lines. Dammit!

Shakespeare certainly knew his stuff when it came to story telling, and idea-strapped Hollywood types know their stuff when they rip off Shakespeare’s stuff. This movie is crammed full of cool-looking cute people to ogle, along with plenty of high school in-jokes (These are the coffee disciples. These are the jocks. This is the popular underwear model guy.) and “hip” references. Fortunately for today’s Neanderthal moviegoers the script is Modern English, and though they do use direct quotes from “Shrew” to punch things up and stay true to the source, the dialogue is well blended so only English majors will really notice anything.

Here’s the 411. Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a new student at Padua High School (in picturesque Seattle), being given a tour of the school’s social structure by immediate new friend and confidant Michael (David Krumholtz) when he spies the girl of his dreams, Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). She only seems vapid and selfish, Cameron correctly knows that beneath the surface she’s the catch of a lifetime.

Only one problem: When it comes to Bianca and her sister, Bianca’s father (the impressively funny Larry Miller) is over-protective bordering on tyrannically obsessive, thanks mostly to being “up to his elbows in placenta” every day delivering the babies of endless teenage girls. Unwilling to see either of his daughters impregnated, he sets a ground rule: No dating for Bianca until her older sister Katarina (Julia Stiles) dates too.

Why such a rule? Because Kat is a shrew, or a “heinous bitch,” according to the fed-up school populace and erotically thinking (you’ll see) school guidance counselor. Once very popular, for reasons unknown Kat dropped out of the social strata long ago and refuses to conform just because other people do. This means she listens to lots of alternate chick music (and you will too, listening to this movie!) and rebuffs any idiot (i.e. everyone) to get in her path; we hear of that a boy who got in her face underwent a testicle-retrieval operation successfully, though Kat contends he kicked himself in the balls (she’s an expert soccer player!).

How can Cameron date the lovely Bianca if Kat stands indirectly in their way? Well, he and Michael devise a brilliant plan: get alleged sociopath loner Patrick (Heath Ledger, complete with sweet accent) to date Kat a few times so Bianca can date Cameron.

Complications arise, as always, but are circumvented by getting rich idiot Joey (Andrew Keegan) to finance Patrick wooing of Kat. The catch? Well, Joey only does it so he can get Bianca for himself, he’s a big strong dude that isn’t afraid of stepping on Cameron to get the girl, and he has some super secret history with Kat that is going to affect things as well. Whoa!

Will our heroes get the girls they want? Will Patrick be able to explain to Kat, who he surprisingly falls in love with, that he was being paid to go after her? Will Cameron bring Bianca to the prom? How come my high school was a nondescript white rectangle of a building, while Padua High School is a towering and huge gothic fortress complete with gigantic all-purpose football field? These questions will all be answered (most of them) when you see the fantastic film 10 Things I Hate About You.

Expect brilliant Shakespearean drama like you saw in the park last weekend, and you will be bitterly disappointed. Expect an energetic and impressively clever teen love-comedy with some good laughs and a glossy sheen, and you’ll get the most bang for you buck. Thanks for everything, Mr. Shakespeare! Sorry about that Kenneth Branagh Hamlet, though.

Justin’s rating: Grooveth

Justin’s review: Shakespeare is the new marijuana. For years filmmakers have been bereft of original ideas for movies, so they took a toke off of the ol’ Bard. When remaking the old plays in their original setting became increasingly dull and only for English majors and theater brats looking to impress whoever they were sitting next to, Hollywood went on to recast Shakespeare in the modern (or near-modern) setting.

Hamlet in World War 2. Othello in Disney World. Romeo and Juliet with Fidel Castro and JFK. Hard as it is to imagine, even that well dried up. So now the only unpillaged genre is exploited in a last-ditch effort to make ‘Peare “hip” and “with it” and “full of air quotes.” As if teen films weren’t generally bad enough.

10 Things I Hate About You is a thinly veiled exercise in updating Taming of the Shrew to the teen demographic. They figure if they slip in a few Victorian phrases hither and yonder, and give the characters some odd names, they’ll slip classical literature under the guise of YET ANOTHER makeover-and-prom flick.

Listen, you may like Shakespeare. A reading of one of his sonnets might make you all tipsy and cause you to hold your pinky out when you drink tea. I don’t care. Shakespeare bores me tremendously, sort of like beer in that I have a suspicion I’ll just never acquire the taste. But I’m really saying this up front so that you realize I’m pretty biased toward this kind of movie. Shakespeare, big red mark. Teen movie that falls into the clichés, another red check. However, aside from those crippling deformities, 10 Things manages to do something right.

It’s a comedy. It has funny. It made me laugh.

Despite being the only intelligent person in a twelve-block radius, Kat (Julia Stiles) is portrayed as the queen of the nasty, a hard-ass with an attitude of antagonism. This sets her apart in Stereotype High School (try, really hard, not to laugh when they haul out the cowboys as a clique). Since Stiles has been in every Shakespeare remake since 1999, you can see the inner battle not to start speaking in rhyming couplets. There’s a love triangle… no, a love square… that pits her against creepy thin boy in a battle to the date.

At least Kat is pretty. Our hero Patrick is meant to be this extreme machismo testosterone tank, up to the challenge of breaking Kat’s will to live, and thereby gaining her affections. He has wild mangy hair and manages to be at least four molecules thick. Can guys be anorexic? Seriously, one of my junior highers would have an excellent chance of taking Patrick one-on-one in physical combat, that’s how imposing and raw this manly man is.

Still, he doesn’t break a manicured nail in his conquest of Kat, since all it takes to melt a girl’s heart and transform her into one of the popular elite is (1) a drink, and (2) table dancing. The scene where Kat betrays all she is and stands for by trying to impress the other kids by doing Riverdance is pret-ty sad.

When 10 Things isn’t relapsing into freshman lit or reinforcing the message that Different and Original is Bad, it pulls out quite a few titter-inducing scenes. For instance, golfing onto a field where soccer practice is in session is probably not a good thing. And the AV geek kid holds on to every last shred of dignity while he’s jumping over cliffs on his motorcycle and having male anatomy doodles imprinted on his face. But Mr. Stratford hogs some of the best lines, a dad who doesn’t let the teenage world intimidate or inform him.

If this review seems slightly harsh, realize I’ve mellowed a lot toward this film since the first time I saw it. And if I’m watching Shakespeare, I’d rather be watching Shakespeare comedy than Shakespeare kill your uncle and marry your mom drama.

Also, when I said “theater brats”, I meant it in the kindest sense. Really. Except for a few I knew in college.

Andie’s rating: 10 Things I Hate About Guys: You’re late sometimes. You use too much tongue. You don’t call me enough. You call me too much. Your roommates. Your taste in movies. You won’t make a move, so then I have to. You don’t understand that sometimes I go out without you and have a good time. You have a girlfriend. You’re gay.

Andie’s review: 10 Things I Hate About You was released in 1999 as a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. It stars Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Larisa Oleynik and Joseph Gordan-Levitt. If viewing this movie as a faithful adaptation to Shrew, it doesn’t hold up. I was disappointed that it wasn’t truer to the original story. However, if viewing this movie as a fun, light-hearted teen comedy, it is more satisfying than most recent films of this genre.

In comparing 10 Things to Shrew, the blatant differences are the plot points that are obviously absent. Firstly, the characters of Lucentio and Tranio, here named Cameron and Michael, don’t switch places in order to win the love of Bianca for Lucentio/Cameron. I preferred the switching because it adds another plot twist to Shakespeare’s work.

Secondly, the character of Hortensio, here called Joey, is portrayed in 10 Things as a self-centered jerk that is only after Bianca because of the challenge of getting her. In Shrew, I felt that Hortensio was a likeable, funny character that is courting Bianca for the same reason as Lucentio: he loves her. 10 Things tried to hard to make its audience hate the rival for Bianca’s affections; it would’ve been much more interesting if both suitors were sympathetic, likeable characters.

Third, I wanted the character of Katarina to be more of a “shrew” in 10 Things. She clearly is intelligent and non-conforming and wields her sarcasm like a newly sharpened sword, but I wanted her to be genuinely disagreeable. Stiles’ interpretation of Kat has her treating the sarcasm almost like a form of flirtation. If she’d been more of a shrew to start off with it would’ve been that much funnier when the Petruchio character, here called Patrick, won her over.

Finally, I wanted the initial interactions between Patrick and Kat to be bigger with more sparks flying. In Shrew, especially in a version I watched the other day, the first meeting between the two of them is amazing. I enjoyed that so much I wanted to burst into applause when they left the stage; the physicality of it left me breathless. He was pickin’ her up and tossin’ her around and throwin’ her over his shoulder, it was hilarious! I would have loved to see that kind of physicality between Patrick and Kat in 10 Things.

Despite the fact that I don’t feel 10 Things was an adequate adaptation of Shrew I enjoyed watching it. It had wonderful comedic moments; it was much funnier than most teen comedies that are released nowadays. I particularly liked the supporting characters, especially Kat and Bianca’s father, Mr. Stratford. His over-protectiveness stemming from his job delivering babies to young girls is hilarious and he gets some of the best lines of the movie.

I also enjoy the scene where Bianca finally gives in and lets Cameron take her home instead of Joey. Cameron rambles on about how being beautiful doesn’t give Bianca an excuse to treat people the way she does and how much he just wanted to be with her and he won’t stop talking until finally she just kisses him. It’s a great scene, very realistic and well done. I also really enjoyed Patrick trying to get into Kat’s good graces by serenading her with “You’re Just too Good to be True” at soccer practice. That actually seemed to be like something Petruchio would do in Shrew and was very funny and endearing.

I also liked the fact that the writer threw in references to Shakespeare. The title 10 Things I Hate About You rhymes with Taming of the Shrew. The girls’ last name is Stratford, as in Stratford-on-Avon. Patrick’s last name is Verona, as in Petruchio Verona from Shrew. The setting is Padua High School, Shrew is set in Padua, Italy. The teacher assigns the class to write their own versions of Shakespeare’s sonnet #141 and Kat writes a very cute, high school version, which she reads aloud at the end of the movie.

Overall, I enjoyed 10 Things I Hate About You for what it was: a fun, frivolous comedy about teenagers trying to find love/dates in high school. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a credible version of Taming of the Shrew, but it takes a brilliant Shakespearean plot and makes it into an okay Hollywood movie.

Drew’s rating: Well it ain’t Shakespeare, but… oh wait, yes it is. Kinda.

Drew’s review: I have a confession to make: I’m a Shakespeare geek.

I can hear the confusion in your voices now. “But Drew,” you say, “A geek? That can’t be. It’s true, you know the contents of every X-Men comic ever published and can recite the Green Lantern oath backwards. But you’re also possessed of a wit that both enthralls and yet, somehow frightens as well, and you must daily be mistaken for Brad Pitt’s younger, sexier brother.”

True enough, children, but I can’t deny it — when it comes to the Bard, I’m an unabashed nerd. The old saying goes that there are only two kinds of people in the world, those who love Shakespeare and those who haven’t read enough of him, and count me squarely among the former. To illustrate the point — I’m not proud of this, but I once tried to convince my college girlfriend that I wasn’t drunk because I could still quote Macbeth. (Somehow, the evening was spent alone anyway. Philistine.)

The upshot of all of which is that I don’t impress easy when it comes to adaptations of Billy S.’s work. If you’re going to adapt one of his stories, you’d better be darn sure you put an entertaining spin on it, or you’re in for the disapproving scowl of a lifetime. So when I tell you that 10 Things is one of my all-time favorite teen movies, hey, I ain’t just blowin’ smoke up the back seat of a Volkswagon, bub. The plot’s been pretty well hashed over already, so I’ll just remind everyone not to go in expecting a Romeo + Juliet update with language intact; though there are a few (much appreciated) lines from the Bard’s work included, it’s primarily kept to modern language, so no need to worry about having trouble following along.

In fact, one of the strangest, and yet most affirming things I’ve found about the movie is that it does appeal to such a wide, unexpected array of people — proof once again that Shakespeare, if presented properly, transcends all time and social borders. My old college swim team watched most of the films you’d expect a group of young jocks circa 1999 to thrive on. And yet, every couple of weeks I’d see the toughest, crudest, most masochistic individuals I’ve ever met in my life sprawled out on the couch, quietly viewing 10 Things for the 27th time.

And why not? As Justin pointed out, it has funny. (Special mention has to go to the supporting characters; the guidance counselor’s moonlighting job is dead hilarious — though writing novels or, say, movie reviews on company time is just wrong, kids — and I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t laugh during Larry Miller’s spot-on delivery of his placenta speech.) Plus, it’s cute and sweet, in a way that even neanderthalish athletes respond to. And it features a guy getting a penis drawn on his face. Seriously, what’s not to love?

In faith, my final word is thus — it didn’t win any awards or reinvent the genre, but 10 Things is one damn fun little flick that’ll keep you amused. Because for all the updating of language and circumstances, it maintains the one thing the Shakesmeister did best: giving us characters and situations we can relate to.

The guys have some witty lines but make their share of mistakes, the girls are attractive while still looking like high school students (note to Hollywood: contrary to your belief, most of the girls I knew in school didn’t have breast implants), and come on, who hasn’t been on the wrong end of a testicle retrieval operation or two in their time? (Look, I SAID I was sorry, okay?) It’s not a perfect translation – Kat actually isn’t bitchy enough, believe it or not, and some of the complex wooing schemes from the play are simplified – but to my mind, the purpose of a retelling is to maintain the spirit of the source material while making it relevant to the intended audience. And verily, 10 Things does this in spades, so hie thee to the nearest shoppe of video rentery and procure thyself a copy forthwith. By my troth, be thee off!

Shalen’s rating: In the words of Dexter, “I can’t think of anything clever to say.”

Shalen’s review: Ah, high school romance.

Ah, ice picks to each eye socket.

One might reasonably argue that if one blindly hates any given genre of film, it’s probably due to some personal issues and not due to merits lacking in said genre.* I’m not just setting up a straw person here. I’m pretty sure this is true. Would I hate romances so much if they didn’t invariably involve things that will never happen to me because I’m not pretty, like the protagonists? Would I hate dramas so much if I didn’t deeply treasure my family and loathe the thought of anything happening to them? Probably not. And I probably wouldn’t hate teen romances so much if, back in high school, I hadn’t been the teacher’s-pet, sucks-at-every-sport, never-asked-out salutatorian geek.

In Teen Romance World, being different and having a quirky family is perfectly okay. In fact, it means hot guys will date you on a bet and you’ll merely have to let your hair down and remove your glasses to become gorgeous.** Nobody in Teen Romance World has acne, not even the fat guy. All you have to do to achieve romantic success, personal satisfaction, and social standing is to abandon everything that makes you different from the norm, be it attitude or style of dress or voluntary singleness.

And, intentional or not, that is the message of this movie. In fact, it was basically the message of the play it’s based on as well. That one was a little more disturbing in a number of ways, but in this one we don’t see anything so edgy as Patrick kidnapping Kate and psychologically torturing her until she turns into his compliant love-slave. That might have made it unpalatable to its rich and credulous target audience. This movie has great music, good humor, some hilarious outtakes, and two comically easy-to-spot actual high schoolers among the cast. Like lots of other things that aren’t good for you, it’s easy to swallow.

So remember, intelligent young women. All you have to do to find happiness in life is CONFORM CONFORM CONFORM!

Unless you’re not already skinny and blond. Then you’re probably out of luck.

*Unless that genre is films involving bodily fluids as major plot development, because those films are revolting. Yes they are. YES they ARE. Except vampire movies, which I suppose technically do fit that definition. Hmmm.
**That particular thing being more a point of She’s All That than this one. My sister made me watch it. My college dormmates made me watch this. I had rope burns for days.


  • Who gets into the “spank bank”
  • The reactions of the “lucky” dudes asked if they’ll date Kat
  • Michael’s payback for being excommunicated from the future MBAer group
  • The same girl complains every time a prom poster gets ripped down
  • The TRUTH about girls and their black underwear
  • The title “10 Things I Hate About You” sounds remotely like “Taming Of The Shrew” (on which this film is based).
  • What guidance counselors work on while you’re talking
  • Cameron’s friend Michael is the guy who plays Neil’s older brother in an episode of Freaks & Geeks. (Who loves ya, Clare?)

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