Ledger's Taming of the Stiles
Before Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles really made an impact as major movie stars, they starred in "10 Things I Hate About You" an attempt to turn Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" into a romantic comedy for teenagers. Surprisingly it really isn't that bad, with an energy and edge which makes it stand out in the teen romcom genre and despite being released in 1999 still is surprisingly popular.
Little Miss popular Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik - Together Again for the First Time) is desperate to go out with high school hunk Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan), but she has a problem, her overly protective father won't allow her to date unless her older sister Kat (Julia Stiles - The Bourne Ultimatum) does and as Kat has no interest in boys, Bianca's wishes look to remain as just that. But Bianca has another admirer in the form of dohey eyed Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Halloween H20) and she somehow convinces him that if he can get someone to date Kat then she will go out with him. Enter school oddball Patrick (Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight) who agrees to ask Kat out in return for payment, but a purely business deal turns out as more as he realises that he really does like her.
Not being a huge Shakespeare fan I couldn't honestly tell you whether or not "10 Things I Hate About You" is an authentic adaptation of "The Taming of the Shrew" and to be frank I am not overly fussed either as it is entertaining without the need to know. But even so even I can pick up on various elements which are obviously included to pay homage to the tales originator. From a couple of characters who have a penchant for quoting the Bard, the name of the school Padua which I am informed is the name of the city where the play is set, characters names being updated versions of the classics such as Petruccio being replaced by Patrick as well as surnames including references such as Stratford, there is a lot of acknowledgement to it's origins. But what is good is that none of these Shakespearean references feel forced, even the various quotes, and it all blends into the storyline without feeling like a cheesy homage.
In between all these Shakespearean references "10 Things I Hate About You" is essentially a romantic comedy which focuses on not just one relationship but two. This double romantic feature gives the movie a little more depth than your normal romantic comedy and although the essence of each is a little cliché and predictable allows for the movie to keep you entertained switching between each of them. Whilst you have the love hate relationship of Kat and Patrick going on you also have the more obvious romance between Cameron and Bianca. What helps is that the storylines are interlinked allowing for it to flow almost naturally rather than feeling like two completely separate stories. Though honestly these romances are not the great love stories that capture your minds as well as your hearts, but the light weight stuff which makes you smile.
Keeping things moving so well is the continual flow of humour which when left to the younger cast works but when given to the few adults bombs. What do I mean? well Kat's suffragette style stance against social conformity is brilliant allowing for the witty sarcastic dialogue which Julia Stiles delivers perfectly. Whilst Ledger with his slightly scary oddball character is equally funny especially with the over the top gestures such as the scene featuring him singing "Your to good to be true". But then for all this good humour there is the bad such as Mr. Stratford goofing it up as the over protective father which doesn't fit into the feel of the movie. What is good though is that there is a sharpness to "10 Things I Hate About You" that makes the comedy feel different to the normal gags that fill these movies. It's not so much edgy but more adult like making "10 Things I Hate About You" a movie which also has something for adults who end up watching it.
What also helps things and as already mentioned is that with the exception of Joseph Gordon-Levitt who had made his name in TV sitcom "3rd Rock from the Sun", the rest of the cast were pretty much unknowns or at least not recognizable as leads in a movie. It certainly helps as it means their performances are baggage free, and actually makes a change from seeing the same old faces monopolising these teen romantic parts. For relative unknowns these stars do a remarkable job, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is likeable as the dohey eyed Cameron with his cute good natured portrayal of a young man in love and Larisa Oleynik isn't half bad playing Bianca the stereotypical Miss Popular.
But for me the real stars are Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles both delivering memorable performances as Kat and Patrick. Julia Stiles is likeable as the fiery Kat delivering her dialogue with an edge which makes you listen whilst Heath Ledger really stands out with a mature performance as Patrick the schools oddball. But it is the chemistry between them which really works and rather than it feeling just like acting it is believable that there was a tempestuous relationship between them.
Also adding to everything which makes "10 Things I Hate About You" such a surprisingly good movie is its soundtrack. As already mentioned there is the enthusiastic rendition of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" sung by Heath Ledger but there are other memorable numbers such as "I Want You To Want Me" preformed by Letters to Cleo which provides a brilliant ending to the movie.
What this all boils down to is that despite being a teen romcom "10 Things I Hate About You" it is not your run of the mill pap which fills this genre. Updating the Shakespearean play "The Taming of the Shrew" into a modern setting works brilliantly and although there are various Shakespearean references to appease fans of the Bard it is a movie which is just as entertaining if you are clueless when it comes to Shakespeare. With different faces and an energy which never seems to lull there is a lot to like about "10 Things I Hate About You" and although aimed for a teen market is surprisingly entertaining for a slightly more adult audience.